Petition to Reform the State's Corrupt and Broken Guardian ad Litem System
Connecticut's Guardian ad Litem system is horribly broken. Family Court judges are routinely raiding children's college funds, parents’ retirement accounts, and every other asset a family may have available and diverting all of their available funds into the hands of Guardian ad Litems (GALs) who operate without a system of checks and balance, without any oversight or accountability of any kind, and without any responsibility to the children they are supposed to represent.
Many parents have experienced firsthand the very real damage and harm caused by GALs who do not perform the services assigned to them by the state, or do so poorly and on purpose in order to unnecessarily prolong cases in increasing billings.
Because GALs are given the protection of immunity and no one watches over their performance - or even if they actually do their jobs, parents who are forced to expend tens of thousands of dollars and have their basic civil, human and parental rights trampled in the process. There is no means by which to file a complaint or to hold an unethical GAL accountable for their failure to perform, or failures to properly represent their children in accordance with state requirements.
There is absolutely no oversight of any kind, no system of checks and balances, and no one to complain to. This is because many judges were themselves formerly GALs and simply perpetuate the problem.
This state's "family court" system is routinely financially and emotionally devastating parents and families already suffering from a divorce and a poor economy. This is costing parents their homes and their jobs - all under the completely false premise that any of this is "in the best interests of children."
Parents and families can no longer afford to pay for their own legal representation once straddled with overbearing and completely unrealistic GAL costs, and there is no "financial means test" done by a court before a GAL is assigned, or any cost controls or limits of any kind imposed on a GAL. As a result, 70% or more of all litigants in our state's family court system, now appear Pro Se and without proper legal representation.
This has significantly impeded the ability of the courts to function efficiently, and most importantly - prevents the Court from serving the best interests of children and families. Rather than working to resolve problems, the Court has instead became a source of further harm and abuse due to the complete lack of oversight of any kind over the GAL system.
Many families come prepared to have their case heard before the court only to be turned away for yet another day when it is anticipated by the Court that motions can’t be addressed in just half an hour, wasting valuable human resources and taxpayer's dollars. GALs, do not meet with parents prior to hearings to review and solicit input on their recommendations to the court, as the state requires them to do, causing further confusion, operational dysfunction and delays - all while the GAL bills for their time.
Judges de facto outsource their decision-making authority to these GALs and almost automatically order whatever a GAL may recommend without due process, furthering the problem and causing poor and ineffective orders to be repeatedly entered and ordered in a vacuum, all while ignoring the basic principles of due process and civil rights.
Meanwhile, parents are held hostage to this inept system that forces them to miss days from work, spend scarce resources on daycare, and attend in-court "status conferences" that are almost always focused on ensuring GALs are paid, not any meaningful progress to benefit to children and families of divorce.
Appointment of a GAL infuses immense financial stress at a time in families’ lives when personal issues are reaching critical mass. Most parents are terrified or reluctant to speak out due to the pervasive and overwhelming fear that their voices will result in retaliation by the GAL and court causing unfavorable custody and visitation recommendations to be automatically ordered by a court and based solely on what the GAL wants.
The wait time for hearings in our state's family courts is now 4-5 months long - further denying due process. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” And children and families are suffering due to this inherent corruption and court dysfunction.
Furthermore, there is an inherent conflict of interest when the GAL tasked with reviewing these matters has a substantial financial interest and personal profit incentive to delay and prolong matters as long as possible. Delays which allow a GAL to come to court completely unprepared, with no input from any party, to work on multiple cases the same day, and bill each client for many of the same hours in court, thereby enriching themselves at a rate of $750, $1,000 or more per hour.
Further, GALs are typically assigned for the life of the case, even if there is no case before the court or ongoing conflict, with no termination until the child reaches the age of majority. All the while, the GAL can charge whatever they deem fit to enrich themselves in effect creating a court and state sponsored annuity for themselves. No public servant of any kind should be granted this kind of complete power of any parent's or child's lives. No elected official and not even the President of the United States enjoy this kind of special immunity.
Immediate legislative action and reform is needed now, because our judiciary has proven itself to be simply incapable of protecting the actual best interests of children and families of divorce, and is instead causing very real and long lasting harm.
Our state must and can do much better for families and children of divorce.
Peter Szymonik started this petition with a single signature, and now has 1,105 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.