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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13 thoughts on “Testimony reveals major flaws in Connecticut’s Guardian ad litem system

  1. Former State Senator MaryAnn Handley-Manchester Democrats was submitting bills to make GAL’s lawsuit immunity revocable, and establish better training standards for GAL’s since most of them play on their Blackberrries and iphones in class and screw up family cases in the long run. Senator MaryAnn is now retired and we should start to look for another legislator who would pickup with her work. She had a few suggestions as to who would continue with it.

    Another issue with GALs is to make sure no GAL has any relationship or having a GAL find a sympathetic cause for any protective parent organization such as the Protective Mothers Alliance group since they mainly oppose shared parenting as a whole. Such groups oppose parental alienation as a junk science and it seems most of us complain about ex-spouses engaging in enticing behavior to all children to cause the children to fight their divorce wars. Senator Mary was deeply concerned about such GALs having relationships with such protective groups as a conflict of interest and such GALS need to be seriously questioned about their views on PA.

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  3. Can anyone tell me anything about GAL’s in the Norwich CT area? When a parent is requesting a modifcation and then ask for an GAL for the child, that seams like it might be an area where they can come up with a plan to favor the requesting parent who is paying?

    I have a great concern as my grandchild’s father is asking for change in agreement to have primary custody and he has a lot more money than my daughter. I am afraid it will go in favor because of money. thoughts

  4. GAL’s in Norwich or that work for the Norwich court system are unprofessional and you do NOT want one. GAL’s will not help you. I am dealing with one right now and it is a nightmare. You can contact me at 8607056537 if you would like some advice.

  5. I am dealing with a GAL from Connecticut Legal Services in Stamford. It has just been awful. She is aligned with the other side’s attorney and has been brutally unethical. I wish there was a site to start reviews on these GAL’s as what what are personal experiences are. Does anyone know of any??

  6. Does anyone have any info about the Children’s Law Center in Hartford, specifically David Coughlin? Any insight is greatly appreciated

  7. I would strongly suggest you web-mastering your own free web site about your GAL and use “google analytics” to rate and search your GAL report site. I did for GAL Mary Gagne ODonal-Norwich. It rates the top of the search engine when any type of search for her name goes to google. With the current immunity in place and no accountability for GAL’s.. it would make sense to publicize the GAL’s unethical mistakes so that no one else will knowingly accept any GAL for a child best interest if its said to be harmful and predjudiced.

  8. The GAL system is beyond flawed. My wife and I are paying astronomical fees for a GAL who is supposed to be “representing” my stepdaughter. This GAL, located at One Torrington Plaza in Torrington CT is an absolute disgrace. She actually told my stepdaughter, who she was supposed to represent, that if she didn’t have a relationship with her drug addict father she would have “relationship issues” later in life!!! This GAL has a history of awful decisions and even worse advice for those she has been in contact with. I can go on and on and on and on with the different ways she has mishandled my stepdaughter’s case. In other words, STAY AWAY FROM MAUREEN E. DONAHUE!!!! We need to change the system so people like MAUREEN E. DONAHUE are not allowed to represent those that need their help the most.

  9. My judge chose our gal who happened to be in the hallway of the court house. She came I to my home days later by herself to search my home while never notifying myself or my attorney and came to my home alone with my daughter while I was at work it was 4:00. My daughter who is 12. She told me that the gal searched my home and then i reported her to the police department. Since she never told anyone myself or my attorney about her home visit. She actually charging for her time 150 and i’m disputing it. And if she was so concerned why not come with the police or dcf? She searched my home and left without my daughter knowing everything was fine.. And never mention her visit to anyone until the police followed up and she admitted to being in the home. I have the police report. Her dad/attorney why I’m divorced had the luxury of the date and time of their visit. I wasn’t given that opportunity in ct. This is not end of this story! !

  10. Our divorce judge chose our gal who happened to be in the hallway of the court house. She was allowed this position. Months later she came I to my home by she came by herself to search my home while never notifying myself or my attorney and came to my home alone with my daughter while I was at work it was 4:00. My daughter who is 12. She told me that the gal searched my home the next day later and then i reported her to the police department. Since she never told anyone not myself or my attorney about her home visit. She actually charging for her time 150 and i’m disputing it. And if she was so concerned why not come with the police or dcf? She searched my home and left without my daughter knowing that everything was fine.. And never mention her visit to anyone until the police followed up and she admitted to being in the home. I have the police report. Her dad/attorney while I’m divorced had the luxury of the date and time of their visit. I wasn’t given that opportunity in ct. This is not end of this story! !

  11. My son has a GAL who has been on the case for a year and half and ruined my son’s life. The GAL supports my ex’s lawyer and my ex. The GAL refuses to listen to my son who is a teenager! about upsetting visitation experiences. I brought in an AMc and he was verbally abusive to my son and the AMC also sided with the dad. The judge is unaware of any of this and there is no recourse for me to protect my child. The GAL continues to harass me and my son even though we are divorced. The court system for moms and children is broken. I wish someone would realize this and institute changes.

  12. Hi:

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a reputable, professional, effective GAL who really looks out for the “best interests of the child”? Looking for someone in Norwich/New London. Ideally someone that would accept the state GAL rate.

    Thanks

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