Guardian Ad Litem Reform Approved By Legislature

After all the acrimony surrounding the debate over guardian ad litem reform, the final votes in the General Assembly were unanimous. And the results led some lawmakers and advocates to suggest that the legislation granting expanded rights to parents in divorce and custody proceedings may be only the first step in a larger overhaul of Connecticut's family courts.

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What's being said

  • Jennifer Verraneault

    Thank you for your unbiased, educational and nice commentary. Just as we accuse GALs, AMCs, judges, mental health professionals and alike for being not so good; we have to admit that there‘s also some not so good parents who have been vocal and also silent throughout our cause to promote constructive and overdue changes in family court. Parents who have joined other parents to share their experiences, from my view, have legitimate complaints and concerns. Are there parents in which they may have some form of a personality flaws or disorders? Are some parents more vulnerable to personality adjustment disorders when they go through one, if not the most stressful and detrimental life experience ever? I am sure, however, for the vast majority of these parents I have met, none of what has been reported, researched, analyzed, scrutinized and so on rise to the level of abuse, neglect or a determination of being an unfit parent. We are not talking about DCF cases. Our most vulnerable children need a voice and this is not what our cause is about.

    I will say, a lot of parents don‘t have the luxury, although it should not be viewed as a luxury but a right, to ask their children about their day or to spend precious time with their child because their rights have been ignored. Not only the parents right to care for their child, absent abuse and neglect, but their child‘s rights to have a relationship with their non-custodial parent have denied. All communication has been stopped, therefore have a telephone conversation is not even an option with most of these parents and children. This is very sad and it will end up being societies problem when these deprived children grow up to be adults. I understand your recommendation for parents to let the system evolve as we know it will, and to spend their energy and efforts on their children, but it‘s truly not that easy. Parents who are good parents are not seeing their children as a result of many things wrong with the way we do business in family court. Court orders are not followed and nothing happens to the offender. Time goes by and children miss their right to have a relationship with their parent. Parental alienation is very real and unfortunately, in my opinion very common in our family court system. I view our family court system as an enabler; attorneys, GALs, AMCs, judges, mental health professionals who call themselves consultants are all getting it wrong. We can spend tax payers dollars on giving, yes giving retired judges a very comfortable pension even if they only serve for three years, but we can‘t provide these same judges with the resources they need to help when they‘re on the bench. It doesn‘t make sense. I know there‘s a lot of good in family law but unfortunately, there‘s a lot of bad apples who have used our system to ruin it for children, parents and the good guys. Sorry for any typos.

  • Steff

    Ms. Verranault: I‘m not sure what you‘re referring to when you spout about misspellings. But if that‘s the best you can do, please, at least try to, well, spell correctly. As in, it is not its, it is it‘s. That‘s called a contraction. And as to your sign-off, are you, in fact, "Regrettably" Jennifer Verranault? You shouldn‘t feel regrettable about being yourself. Good luck!

  • SeenItAll

    A point I wish many people, as parents or otherwise, understood is that their "rights" are not natural - they are, in fact, legal rights. We are organized as communities with social structures, and social controls, developed and implemented by the government. While it has been popularized by several anti-government political organizations to promote disbelief in, and discontent with, government as a system for self-organizing . . . . it is necessary, even if a necessary evil. We‘ve learned, as humans, that our ability to survive and thrive is best when we live together. To do this, we establish rules. We have votes (although the Supreme Court is doing its best to dilute them vis a vis corporate interests) and the system only works if we use them wisely. That said, this country inherited the doctrine of parens patriae. "Parens Patriae
    [Latin, Parent of the country.] A doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf."

    This is the real starting point that seems to be missed, especially by those who see the courts, the attorneys and the GALs as their enemies.

    I totally agree that the system needs periodic review, in any case, and especially when wealth has been redistributed from the masses to pad the already thick pockets of those whose wealth cannot even be calculated at any given point because it is growing exponentially.

    We are down here fighting over peanuts. Most parents are terribly stressed by divorce, the loss of spouse, loss of time with children, loss of security, depletion of finances because now two homes must be maintained, loss of years and are tormented by an adversarial process that compels opposition rather than agreement in most cases. That sucks. Been there. Done that.

    I have lived in another country, though, where the process is more agreeable and where the government pays the child support so that this element is lifted from the controversy, and payment is (in a smaller country) inescapable. But the law there is largely arbitrary, there is no opportunity to pursue "rights" because the government simply decides and is above challenge, and I have no doubt that that is not the direction the complaining parents want to go.

    I hope they will take their time to continue watching what happens with this legislation, but also to stop comparing everything, every state, and everyone. Instead, I hope they will ask their children by phone or in person - how their day was, who their friends are, what they did in school, and will plan some fun activities and get to the business of enjoying the time they do have. I say this because this time is gone before you can say "sue the bastards". Not to spend free time on this, at this point, is another way of saying "it is all about me" or "I have to win", "I have to be in control" and "my children are second to that, in fact".

    Let the legislation be implemented. Review, speak out. But please recognize progress, pat yourselves on your backs, and, now, be parents before that option is gone by reason of nothing other than the passage of precious time.

  • Steff

    Hector, I know it‘s hard to believe, but I‘m not actually accountable to you. Of the 80 people who testified in January, perhaps 55 were parents with cases. And that‘s being generous. Of those, many have criminal records, often involving their exes or their kids (stalking, anyone?). There are 35,000 divorce cases annually. ANNUALLY. Many of those people at the hearing had years‘ old cases. That speaks VOLUMES to their behavior, as GALs are appointed in such a small number of cases. Further, your most vocal spokesperson has a tendency to exaggerate; he spent his kids‘ $15k college funds, even tho he makes $100,000 per year? That‘s just his own selfishness. Further, what about the parent who called the medical board on their ex-spouse and claimed she was severely mentally ill, just to try to have her lose her medical license? Or the parent who won‘t let his dug hater eat because he says she‘s too fat? Or the mom who told everyone her surgeon ex has syphillis (not true) and a drug problem? Yep:,THESE are the a users of GALs. So, go cry in your hat. And stop putting your kids in the middle.

  • Jennifer Verraneault

    In response to Steff‘s comment:
    First of all, it would be a good idea for you to learn how to spell before any of your comments can be taken seriously. Now onto more important issues; itÂ’s unfortunate that you seem to lack any sense of compassion or empathy for children and families going through a system that clearly needs to be changed. The only people unable to accept this fact are the folks who benefit financially from this broken system. I suppose you‘re one of these folks.
    In closing, please keep in mind that this change is only one of many to come.
    Jennifer Verraneault

  • Hector Morera

    This is in response to Steff. Steff, can you please support your statements with facts? Have you spoken to the legislature about your concerns? Have you come to the public hearings to express your concerns? You know you have a right to come and disagree with us anytime at the public hearings. If you listen to my March 31 testimony you will hear that I actually welcomed opposing views right at the beginning of my testimony.

    Or are you just another lobbyist paid to cover up the crimes committed by the family courts everyday.

    I am not going to debate you online. It is easy to spew hateful statements hiding from the safety of your living room. It is another thing to have the courage to come out and express those same statements in a public forum. You are more than welcome to come to the May 19th public hearing on Practice Book rules to express your concerns. The 800 or so persons who signed Peter‘s Petition and the 500 or so persons who represent the Pro Se Group pursuing reforms in foreclosure and the 200 or so persons in various other groups would like to hear your concerns.

    Based on the math, it looks like there are at least 1500 people who are expressing concerns with the courts. Can you please explain how you got 10 people? Never mind that over 70 persons spoke on January 9 and over 50 spoke on March 31. I would like to know how you came about with you math.

    Thank you.

  • Steff

    I‘m just happy the miserable malcontents whose full-time jobs, it seems, rotate around telling the same tired, untruthful stories to any hack legislator with half a brain, can now crawl back in their holes for a while. Because of the the same group of 10 wing nuts, a few folks with legit complaints and concerns are discounted. There are bad GALs as there are bad parents, which is why they don‘t get alot of work, if any. But these vengeful, narcissistic, borderline personality parents? They make their children suffer, and that‘s sickening.

  • Elizabeth A. Richter

    I think it is important to note that many of these parents are self represented because, as the article states, they were forced to pay so much money for GAL fees, expert fees, and their own attorney‘s fees that they had no more money and couldn‘t afford to retain an attorney. So most are not self represented by choice. In regard to my own case, the GAL, Charlotte J. Stamos, turned what should have been a simple divorce into a multiple years marathon by making false statements about me to the court and to the attorneys and experts in the case. Further, she did absolutely nothing to protect my children from medical abuse. GALs should not receive commendation for dealing with problems that they created, and that is, in essence, what is going on and no one holds them accountable. Legislators did not go far enough and I, for one, am pretty disappointed.

  • Hector Morera

    As Peter said, this is only Step 1 and nowhere approaches the efforts enacted by other states which are more progressive in their approach concerning GAL‘s. I thought CT was progressive when I first filed for divorce and read it‘s position on joint custody. Fortunately for the advocates of reform Peter is not going anywhere. Neither are his supporters.

  • Ron B Palmer

    Its so nice of the Connecticut Legislature to "give" parents those natural rights that they have always had. Only a government minion or a legislator could believe that the government has authority to "give" or "grant" any parental rights to a natural parent.

    What they have done is restricted themselves ever so slightly from depriving fit parents of their constitutional rights to their children and taken one minutely small baby step away from treating divorcing parents as second class citizens undeserving of their constitutional rights.

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