(Augusta, Georgia, June 2015) Superior Court Judge Michael Annis ordered a mother, Shannon Lingefelt, to pay $1,627 in past due fees to Guardian ad Litem Angel Kendrick or go to jail. Judge Annis told Lingefelt she could deliver a check or be held in jail until the fees were paid.
(Shannon Lingefelt. Source: http://m.chronicle.augusta.com)
Lingefelt filed an appeal in the Columbia County court on June 4th; which halts the order for jail time until the appeals court rules.
Judge Annis commented on the case, “The issue was not whether she owes the money. Nobody goes to jail for owing money. The issue is whether she willfully disobeyed a court order, while having the ability to comply with it.”
Judge Annis has a particular fondness for GAL Angel Kendrick and refers to her as his “go-to person”. Judge Annis appointed Kendrick to 26 of 48 cases – that is 54% of all his cases.
Angel Kendrick is one of three GALs three guardians (including also Renee Bell and Janet Weinberger) were appointed to 63 percent of the 255 civil cases requiring custody experts from Jan. 1, 2013, to Oct. 31 of 2015. For Kendrick, working as a GAL is essentially a full time job, she been appointed to 70 cases in Richmond and Columbia counties, half remaining open today.
According to the August Chronicle, “A review of 5,460 domestic-relations cases in Richmond and Columbia counties found guardians ad litem, some of whom are appointed twice as often as their peers, faced few restrictions and virtually no oversight in their billing, leaving many parents in debt, struggling to pay for costly divorce, child custody and DNA decisions.
In Augusta’s Judicial Circuit, bills are not collected or audited; there are no rules requiring Superior Court judges to assign cases on a rotation; and guardians have the power to hold clients in contempt to recover unpaid fees, an action that many parents say they’re threatened with if bills are not paid in five to 10 days, as requested.”