Protective Mothers' Alliance International

family court abuse/corruption

Separated From Their Kids, Parents Unite Against One Court Guardian/ citypages.com

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http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2015/02/separated_from_their_kids_parents_unite_against_one_court_guardian.php

It’s a bleak Wednesday morning as E.J. sits at her kitchen table, poring over boxes of court documents. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment just north of the metro, where the walls are covered with her children’s crayon drawings. The table is spread with toys and picture books; overhead, a Thomas the Tank Engine poster spells “Happy Birthday” in bright blue.

She hoists a slender cat onto her lap as she points out the pictures on the fridge. There’s her son, a brown-eyed boy smiling in a pressed shirt. There’s her daughter with a missing tooth.

The children live about 25 miles away with their father now. They visit only once a month.

The exact location of E.J.’s apartment is a secret. Her driver’s license lists her address as a P.O. box because she’s enrolled in the secretary of state’s Safe at Home program for victims of domestic violence. The names of all the families in this story have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.

Shrunken behind her files and slow to make eye contact, E.J. struggles to recount a mind-boggling 180-degree shift in custody arrangements that played out over eight years in family court. She recounts brutal physical abuse at the hands of her ex-partner, of getting picked up and slammed down repeatedly in front of their son. Her ex admits to a history of crack cocaine and alcohol abuse, and his criminal record includes burglary, check-forging, and defrauding a St. Paul food bank of $24,000. His abuse eventually forced her out onto the streets, their two children in tow, E.J. says. They were homeless for 18 months.

E.J. says she fought to keep her kids out of their dad’s reach, but over time his improved behavior began to win him unsupervised visitation rights. He got joint custody of their son, and eventually sole custody of both children. E.J.’s access dwindled. She went from full custody of her children to monthly visits.

That the tables turned so radically is a testament to the up-and-down nature of custody battles. But E.J. says there’s more to it. She accuses the courts of ignoring her children’s reports of abuse while in their father’s care. (E.J.’s ex-boyfriend declined to comment through his lawyer.)

Asked where her case went wrong, E.J. points to a single woman, Jamie Manning, the court-appointed guardian ad litem. She is not alone.

The Guardian ad Litem
In high-conflict custody cases, parents accuse each other of every sin under the sun, from domestic violence and child abuse to drug and sex addiction. They call each other crazy, depraved. Cutthroat lawyers tell stories so wildly incongruous that they seem to be describing different families.

The kids can get lost in the madness.

That’s where a guardian ad litem comes in. The state may appoint a guardian to advocate for the children in family court. Families shoulder the cost: $1,500 from each parent every six months the guardian works their case. It’s the guardian’s job to weigh what the children want against their interactions with both parents. Guardians interview teachers and therapists, collect medical and criminal records, and sift through acrimonious family accounts. They place competing parents’ mental and physical health, criminal background, family history, their every action and comment under microscopic scrutiny. Ultimately, the judge decides whether to adopt a guardian’s recommendations. But in practice, guardians have major influence over whether parents get to see — and have a relationship with — their kids.

There are 21 state-employed guardians in Hennepin County and seven in Ramsey. A full-time guardian might juggle up to 40 cases at a time. There are also part-time and volunteer guardians.

Jamie Manning started as a guardian ad litem for Carver County in 1996. She completed her guardian ad litem training two years later, and began working full-time in Hennepin County in 2001. She has a bachelor’s in education from University of Minnesota, though there are no degree requirements to become a guardian.

Suzanne Alliegro, the director of the state guardian ad litem program, says when it comes to family court, rarely are both parties happy with the judge’s ruling, and the parent who loses out invariably starts raging against the system. That’s why guardians, who are tasked to make independent recommendations, receive judicial immunity.

“In family court we do try as much as possible to point out the strengths of the parents instead of just the weaknesses because I know it’s very difficult for parents to see that in print,” Alliegro says. Guardians attract undue criticism when people assume they’re the ones making the decisions, she adds.

At the same time, says Alliegro, she’s never seen so much collective hatred toward a single guardian.

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

February 22, 2015 at 5:46 am

2 Responses

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  1. Parent Alienation is a terrible thing. My sister turned 50 this month and the brainwashing my father did when she was five, to turn her against our mother, is still in place today. She will never recover. I am the ‘wrong one’ if I disagree w/ their account of why we stopped contact w/ our mother. I am sorry so many go through this and that so many ‘professionals’ are not competent to recognize it and act accordingly.

    mothererased

    February 23, 2015 at 3:49 am

  2. Reblogged this on Crime Family task force and commented:
    (THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND FOR ENTERTAINMENT AS I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE AN ATTORNEY) People in each state should read their laws when it comes to an appointed AMICUS or a GUARDIAN AD LITEM’S duties, AND fees. In Texas GUARDIAN AD LITEM will now be called an ATTORENY AD LITEM and their duties and are not one and the same as most people tend to “presume”.

    Jennifer Sisk Hope

    February 23, 2015 at 9:35 am


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