Mike Boulette, an attorney practicing family law, offers his thoughts on the City Pages article “The Proxy” by Susan Du.
Mr. Boulette’s article is titled “City Pages Article Targets Guardian ad Litem Program”: http://family-in-law.com/city-pages-article-targets-guardian-ad-litem-program/
Some points I want to clarify:
The post begins with a dramatic flair: “And, in arguing for change, the article focuses all the ire and pain of thousands of divorced and separated families on a single, Hennepin County Guardian ad Litem…”
Actually, the article in the City Pages focused on 5 separate families who all had Jamie L. Manning appointed to their case as Guardian ad Litem. There are also other families who have expressed concerns with Ms. Manning who are not included, and have come forward to issue complaints.
Who are these families? Current and former parents involved in custody disputes with Ms. Manning appointed as Guardian. Each of these parents has different experiences, and different backgrounds but what we all share in common is that while Ms. Manning was appointed on our case as Guardian, she failed to act in the best interest of the children. Serious issues are being raised– involving Ms. Manning’s unprofessionalism and reckless disregard to perform the statutory responsibilities of a guardian ad litem (as detailed in Minnesota Statutes Section 518.165). The parents of A Call to Action have been involved in the complaint process with the State Guardian as Litem Board since September 2014.
A Call to Action’s efforts for reform began with Ms. Manning because, naturally, every member of the group has experienced problems when she was appointed to our cases. As the group began to grow, the focus of the group shifted to include systemic reform in family court as a whole. In no way does A Call to Action solely blame all of failings of family court or the Guardian ad Litem program on Ms. Manning alone; but rather our experiences with her are used to illustrate needed change in the GAL program overall.
Mr. Boulette goes on to say that the family court process is flawed, and no one individual should not be blamed for that: “But malice? I just haven’t see it… But while the families in Du’s story are inclined to lay their troubles at the foot of one guardian, I’m inclined to see this as more of a systemic issue–a reason to re-evaluate how we try to reach the “truth” in family court and improve outcomes for children and families.”
It should be noted that the parents interviewed submitted extensive records and documentation to the author, Ms. Susan Du, in consideration for this article. Records included: CPS reports, police reports, criminal records, e-mails and correspondence to/from Ms. Manning, court records, GAL reports, letters and drawings from the children involved, medical reports at more. In addition, Ms. Du also contacted the ex partners to get their side of the story. These records are an important part of telling our story, based on evidence, and demonstrating the failures of the Court and the GAL program.
A Call to Action has been raising concerns with the State Guardian ad Litem Board, and asking for a fair, transparent complaint system to investigate concerns with Guardians by a qualified, neutral professional or board. With a proper complaint system in place, a parent can have their concerns and evidence heard, and investigated, and a determination about the conduct or actions of a Guardian can be made. The present GAL complaint systemic is beyond inadequate – parents with complaints are given two options: file a complaint with the Program Manager or file a complaint with the sitting judge on your case. Yet there is no formal complaint procedure. A common experience shared by many is that complaints are ignored or dismissed without investigation. Other parents say filing a complaint with a sitting judge has damaged their case. There is also no mechanism to log, or keep public records of complaints raised against a Guardian. The lack of a formal complaint procedure in combination with a parent’s fear of speaking out can make it appear that problems with individual conduct of Guardians does not exist…when the truth is, the system is not investigating or reporting complaints.
Mr. Boulette also includes some ideas on how to improve the GAL system in his article that are worth reading, and I appreciate his willingness to share from what he has learned.
Read GAL reform initiatives from A Call to Action here: https://acalltoactionblog.wordpress.com/proposed-reform-gal-program/
I agree with Mr. Boulette that it is “time to start building” and with that, encourage meaningful reform. Let’s begin the conversation here; please leave your thoughts and comments below.
“The Proxy:Separated from their Kids, Parents Unite Against One Court Guardian” by Susan Du: