Testimony reveals major flaws in Connecticut’s Guardian ad litem system

Testimony before the Judiciary Committee on Friday, April 5, 2013, revealed major flaws in Connecticut’s Guardian ad litem system. GALs are supposed to interpret the “best interest of the child” in contested custody cases. Often, judges lean heavily on information provided by the GAL. The ability of parents to spend time with their children can depend on support from the GAL.

Many of those testifying reported problems, including:

  1. Poor training. GALs require only 30 hours of training. No law degree, no study of child behavior, no other experience with children.
  2. No accountability. The parents paying the bills cannot fire the GAL! And, GALs have immunity from law suits.
  3. Few meetings with children and refusal to meet with those intimately involved with the children’s lives.
  4. Excessive pay. Hourly rates were reported in the $200-$325 range and total billings in excess of $20,000 per year. The testimony suggested that GALs are more interested in the pay than in the welfare of children. Parents can be jailed for failure to pay GALs.
  5. In some cases, getting a high paying GAL assignment requires a cozy relationship with an attorney representing one side of the custody case. In these cases, the GAL may be more interested in supporting the attorney than in the children.

In fairness, other parents have had good experience with GALs. But the testimony suggests major problems with the GAL system.

What is your experience with Connecticut’s GAL system? Click on the title above to leave a comment.

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