Cathy Cooper and Paul Collins are residents of Midcoast Maine involved in divorce, custody and parental issues. One from the sidelines, and the other from personal experience. Both working on Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform through education and political process.
The two write for MeGAL, a grassroots organization that developed out of the craziness that can happen with the Family Court system involving Guardians ad litem. Four years ago our focus was trying to bring about a correction with Guardians ad litem working with the Judicial Branch. This avenue proved fruitless and about 3 years ago we changed focus to bring about change that we feel is needed. In 2013 and working with several state Representatives we were able to have a bill signed into law. LD 872 “An Act To Improve the Quality of Guardian ad Litem Services for the Children and Families of Maine” was signed by Gov Paul LePage. This year we have the following bills:
LD 349 SP 132 An Act To Ensure Accountability of Guardians Ad Litem
LD 631 SP 224 An Act To Move Oversight of Guardians Ad Litem to the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation
LD 642 SP 235 An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding the Best Interest of the Child Standard
LD 953 HP 656 An Act To Implement Changes in the Family Division To Improve the Experience of Prose Litigants
While our main focus is the education of the public and representatives we also offer support to those who are going through what can be a very trying experience with the Family Court system. Parents will often contact us out of desperation and not understanding what is going on. They see something that does not make sense and feel something is wrong. Quite often it is. We provide a set of tools which they can then choose to use to help protect themselves and their children. We are also able to put them in contact with others who have experienced the same Guardian ad litem and or judge.
What started as a problem that I saw with my experience in Maine’s Family Court has grown to almost every state in the country and internationally. We have been collaborating with a similar group down in Connecticut who have many of the same issues that Maine has (as an example). We see the issues involved with Family Courts as being bi-partisan. It hurts both Fathers and Mothers equally.