National Guardian ad litem Reform

National reform and help for those dealing with Guardians ad litem

Am I the only one who sees this GAL is wrong?

The stages of realizing there is a problem with the Family Court System is universal for families, relatives and friends who have experienced the system first hand. In our frustration with the courts we spend different lengths of time working through a series of 5 steps that are similar to the 5 stages of Loss and Grief as first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” No one person will go through this list in the order we have them and many will only experience a few.

Like the Five Stages our model is based on how we try to rationalize a process which cannot be rationalized. We may go through each stage in order or out of order. We may associate with each step or only a few. The Stages of Family Court Dysfunction (FCD) are:

1. Belief – As consumers of judicial services we enter the court system with the idea that this country has the best judicial system in the world. That the professionals who operate within this system do so with neutrality and fairness.

2. Self Doubt and Puzzlement – As the divorce/ custody process gains momentum and hints of flaws with the process start to show we think these issues are the result of things we are doing. “It must be me” that this is happening. We become puzzled by the direction of the divorce/ custody. We realize that things are not going in a direction which makes sense. There is often a flip flop of common sense and values. Black becomes White and White becomes Black.

3. Reason and Disillusionment – We begin to try reasoning with the players. The Guardian ad litem, lawyers and court. Presenting evidence and facts because if they only just read or viewed they would understand what is going on. Disillusionment creeps in when we realize that no matter how much evidence and facts presented – the system is unwilling to listen and understand what your concerns are.

4. Anger – As the reality of the situation starts to settle in we become upset that ‘justice’ does not exist. That those whom we have invested with our trust are untrustworthy. A system which is supposed to protect our children is more concerned with our behavior and whether or not a Guardian ad litem, Special Master or Parent Coordinator will get paid. Our anger can be aimed at anything – our ex, the children, the family pet even the court system.

5. Settlement – Sadly we may never find settlement as the process can continue far into the future. There are parents who settle and do so for far less than what they should and are grateful for what they have. Then there are others who carry on the fight long after their divorce/ custody is over to that future divorcing families will not have to go through what they have experienced.

The process one goes through is one of personal attitude change with exposure to more and more data. This data can come from many sources – from talking and sharing with others, the internet and those who have taken the issue publicly as well as personal experience. Some will try to fix this system with the hopes of repairing their own case; others do so as public spirited citizens, who hope to help others who are going through what they themselves have experienced. How one publicly markets both the human experience in need of fixing and the fixing itself is critical. It will require educating the public and politicians on what the issues are not only for your case but those of others. It took some time for you to understand that your case had problems. Imagine how others who have no experience with family court will respond? They will have a hard time understanding – some will get it. Many will not.

It is important to note that you are not alone and that others have experienced what you have gone through. There are many grassroots organizations that one can find offering support and help on a national as well as local level. It should be noted that out of 50 states there are very few instances of court officers who have been disciplined for malpractice.

If you have had issues with a court officer – Guardian ad litem, Special Master, Parental Coordinator or some other flavor of court appointed officer. We urge you to contact us at or find us on Facebook.

ME – Sen David Burns Replies to our Open Letter

Within hours of our letter going out to Senator David Burns we received a response back from him. Below is Sen Burn’s response.

Dr. Collins,

Thank you for your questions. First and foremost, the Judiciary Chairs follow the Maine Constitution and Joint Rules to conduct the process of reviewing Judicial nominees. As I said on the Senate floor, our Committee listened to a very long and, we feel, fair Committee hearing on Judge Moskowitz, as we do for each nomination. The Chairs did all in our ability and power to give everyone opportunity to be heard on the issue. It is very difficult to be exact on just how much time each speaker gets without rudely cutting someone’s time short. I believe that was done fairly, in spite of what some have protested about. Everyone’s testimony is equally important. When there is written testimony, we try to keep oral comments as close to the allotted time as possible.

As you know, the Committee had much written comment and materials provided to them before, during and after the Public Hearing. Also, the rules that are set before us, allow for the nominee to have opportunity to respond to testimony given. After the hearing, there was a break where our individual caucuses had an opportunity to talk among themselves, which is consistent with the Legislature’s Joint Rules in any issue brought before us. The Chairs were in agreement that a sufficient amount of time was needed for each Committee member to review and consider all that had been provided to them on this issue, before voting. It was also important for any response from the nominee to come forward. For these reasons the Chairs decided that we would hold the vote, as the rules allow, until after the weekend. As you also know, there was a considerable amount of unsolicited e-mails that were circulated to us during that time period. Each of those were provided to the clerk to be made a part of the public record. There were no inappropriate meetings or discussions that took place during that time that the Chairs are aware of. All testimony and written comment that the Committee was provided is public and available for public access.

When we reconvened, the Committee members had each come to their own conclusions of the “fitness” for this nominee to be reappointed and cast their vote accordingly. This is a process that is in place for us to follow and I believe that each Judiciary Committee member takes it very seriously. It is unfortunate that some individuals and legislators have tried to impugn the integrity of the Committee members. Having spent the last, nearly 5 months, with them, I can assure anyone that they are all very committed to fairness, transparency and of the utmost integrity. We all understand that some of the criticism over this “process” and some of the judicial nominees comes as a result of very difficult personal experiences with family courts and none of us minimize the importance of those experiences and the significance of those perspectives. However, some of the slanderous statements that have been made surrounding these proceedings are unconscionable and do not have any place in legitimate and constructive debate and discussion!


David Burns

MeGAL is working on Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. If you are or have been a consumer of judicial services and have had an issue with the court. We would encourage you to contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Letter to Sen David Burns may be found here:
2015-05-23 An Open Letter to Judiciary Committee on Confirmation of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz

ME – An Open Letter to Judiciary Committee on Confirmation of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz

In an effort to have government transparent we are publishing the following letter to Sen David Burns. The letter deals with the confirmation deliberations that the Judicial Committee had over a weekend before a unanimous vote was given. It was emailed to all committee members the Senate President and the Bangor Daily News as well as the Portland Press Herald. We are presenting to you the letter:

May 23, 2015
Senator David Burns
Chair Judiciary Committee

Dear Dave,

I’m writing you as chair of the Judiciary Committee to ask that you help us understand the committee’s “deliberations” on the reappointment of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz. Like many people who followed the May 12 proceedings, I’m puzzled.

What we witnessed that day was the committee entering the hearing room, sitting, and immediately giving a round of 13 “yeses” – with no comment and no questions. It was a stunningly synchronized delivery, and many people are wondering how this degree of orchestration was achieved.

From some of the committee members, we’ve heard a variety of “explanations” that shed little light on what actually transpired to arrive at a unanimous decision, and Sen. David Dutremble related some of these in his speech from the Senate floor on May 15. The Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald both have published several stories on the Moskowitz reappointment, but there clearly is more to this than was reported.

We’d like to understand why you chose not to include the public in your committee’s deliberations on this “controversial judge.”

I greatly would appreciate a reply. Thank you.


Jerry Collins

MeGAL supports any effort to bring about Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. Please contact us if you have had any issues in or with either at or find us on Facebook.