Custody Battle Costs Are Focus of Task Force

, The Connecticut Law Tribune


With law firms looking for new revenues, he said, fees have skyrocketed so that a $20,000 to $30,000 payment is not unusual.

"No one can afford a family law attorney, let alone hire a guardian ad litem," said Szymonik, a former director of technology and member of the executive board of Cummings & Lockwood. "What they're doing is milking the parents that can pay for everything they're worth."

Further, he said, many parents see little interaction between the guardian ad litem and the child, and wonder what they are paying for. He credited social media for bringing the issue to the forefront.

"They trade stories and learn, 'Hey I'm not the only person this has happened to,'" said Szymonik.

While some parents believe they are getting ripped off, lawyers have a different perspective.

Justine Rakich-Kelly, executive director of Connecticut's Children's Law Center, has heard both sides of the debate in her professional role. She said parents think the lawyers and guardians ad litem are bankrupting them, while the professionals think the parents are the problem.

She noted that many custody cases include psychiatric evaluations for either a child or a parent, which can cost over $10,000. "There are very few professionals who can do a very good forensic custody evaluation," said Rakich-Kelly. "It tends to be a lot of the same people."

And that fuels the perception, she said, that it's a small clique of professionals—whether it's psychiatrists, guardians ad litem or lawyers—who are taking advantage of parents by charging exorbitant rates.

Meanwhile, she said attorneys and guardians ad litem feel that fees are being driven up by parents who have become "conflict addicted" and won't let go of long custody battles.

"So the question is: Who is at fault for the spiraling? The parents think, 'Oh my God, you're making us do all these things and bankrupting us," said Rakich-Kelly. "And lawyers think, 'We are trying to work out agreements and just can't do it when parents won't compromise.'"

What's being said

  • Marisa Ringel

    Why is a GAL remaining on a case if she/he is unable to solve any of the issues? Here is a recommendation that I hope Thomas Weissmuller and the rest of the task force is listening to: Put a term limit on a GAL. Give them 6 mos, or 1 year, to solve the disputes. Then have their term expire. If both parties agree to keep them on, so be it. But if one party does not, then get them off the case after a year. The GAL should give their report into the case file at 6 mos and at 1 year, and then move off the case. If they can?t help in a years time then that guardian is not the right person for that family.

    I would say to those guardian ad litem or attorneys that say ??the costs are being run up by ?conflict addicted? parents.? this: Why are you staying on the case taking money from an addict? Remove yourself. If you can?t help stop the conflict you are NOT the right guardian ad litem or NOT the right attorney for the family. Get off the case. Stop just sitting there in the middle of the conflict collecting money and doing nothing effective. To the attorneys and guardian ad litems that stay on high-conflict cases I will say this, you might call us ?conflict-addicted?, I will call you ?solution inept?.

    Good luck to the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children. This state needs your wisdom and guidance desperately.

    God bless the children,
    Marisa Ringel

  • Andrew

    The GAL system in Connecticut is simply an scam run by judges for benefit of their lawyer friends. The state contracts for GAL services through Office of Chief Public Defender at $50/hr. Judges make parents who have money pay their pet GAL's $300 /hr. Susan Storey has plenty of qualified GAL's on her list that get no work, but judges keep the spoils going to their friends. No tax reporting, no documentation of work performed, just the judge's nod that the parents must pay. In other states the rate is set by the court and paid by the state. Avoids the conflict of interest created when the judge's pet lawyer is appointed to bankrupt the parents and steal money saved for the future of the children. Pretty good gig. Sheeple of Corrupticut cannot govern their own courts.

    Funny how their is no auditable trail of the payments to these GAL's. A $40k transaction ordered by the court goes unreported to the just guess why?

  • Nicole

    So give up fighting for your child or go bankrupt??? Real nice!

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