Another horror story from the bowels of family court…
Guardian ad Litem, Jamie Manning, has intentionally ignored the history of domestic abuse in my family, and ongoing concerns for my children’s safety and well being, when making her recommendations to the Court about custody and parenting time.
When appointed to my case as GAL, Ms. Manning has told me to stop raising concerns about my children and actively worked to give the allegedly abusive father sole custody. In essence, Ms. Manning was representing my former partner – NOT my children.
Further, it is not the job of a Guardian ad Litem to directly make parenting time decisions, but rather to conduct and independent investigation and give recommendations to the Court. In my case, Ms. Manning became the “gatekeeper” to my children, and her word was the single authority deciding when, if and how I would see my children. Ms. Manning’s abuses of power in her role as GAL has caused real harm to my children, and put me back in a position of being controlled by my former abuser, who now has sole custody and the sole authority to decide my parenting time beyond the one visit a month I am allowed (Ms. Manning’s idea).
This e-mail Ms. Manning sent me in 2009 shows her power in determining my parenting time, and also includes comments that she did not believe me when I informed her of the family history of abuse (which is supported by documentation), and instead directs me to co-parent with my abuser “in a positive and non-conflictual manner” (see e-mail in full at the bottom of this post):
Ms. Manning: “My only concern is that you do not exhibit fear of M– in front of the children. This behavior is confusing to the children.
M– has not exhibited threatening behavior towards you that I am aware of since my involvement with your family in July of 2007.
I am pleased that the two of you appear to be improving your ability to discuss the children and work together for their best interests.
It is important for the children to observe the two of you communicating in a positive and non-conflictual manner.”
As my parenting time was being stripped away, and my children continued to struggle in their father’s care, I wrote this e-mail to Ms. Manning, outlining my concerns. I also wrote that “I am not afraid of my abuser” because I felt I needed to appease Ms. Manning in order to continue a relationship with my children. The e-mail also includes several recent events that led me to feel unsafe due to the actions of my abuser, all of these incidents involved my children or happened in front of my children. (I am including excerpts only to protect the privacy of my minor children).
Does this make sense? I have to prove that I am not afraid of my abusive ex partener and am willing to co-parent even while the abuser is continuing to harass me, and inflict harm where he can. I struggle comprehend this twisted version of reality that Ms. Manning has imposed on me, but will never accept it.
Part of my e-mail to Ms. Manning says the following:
I have been compliant with the court order, and it is my intention to remain so.
Since September 2008, on at least 3 separate occasions M— has volunarily, by his own intitative, allowed me brief, unsupervised contact and conversations with the children. If M– had any concerns, his behavior does not indicate it. On all occasions, the children were happy to see me, and my behavior was appropriate.
It should be noted that both children had prior knowledge that they were going to live with M–, and DJ wrote me a letter weeks before the court order that said “Good Buy Mommy“. JJ specifically told me “I am going to live with my dad. That’s sad ‘cuz you won’t have any children anymore.” And “I am going to live with my dad for 9 days.” You had knowledge that JJ made this comment about “9 days” , Jamie, because I heard you mention it when we went to court.
I do not “exhibit fear” in front of the children. In fact, while in my care the children have maintained their relationship with their father.
If I have concerns about M–, I do not bring them to you Jamie because you told me that I am “painting a bad picture of M–” and that you do not believe my allegations of abuse. Thankfully, I have a supportive network of friends, family and church/social groups that I can freely talk to, and who will be there for me. I do not want to have conflict with you. I would rather find a peaceful way of taking care of my children, and ensuring their best interest. “
Truth — You cannot co-parent with someone who is abusive, controlling and treats you like an object, not a human being. Further, when an abuse victim escapes the relationship, the abuse often continues; abuse is not always physical but can take a variety of forms. One form of ongoing abuse is called “Domestic Violence by Proxy” which means the abuser uses the children as a weapon to threaten, harm or gain control of the victim he no longer has access to.
After winning sole custody (with Ms. Manning’s help), the abuser has admitted in open court that he “will not co-parent” and is now working to alienate my children from me. His justification? He points to the court record, and Ms. Manning’s recommendation of him.
I am sharing my horrific experiences of dealing with Ms. Jamie Manning because I have since learned that I am not the only parent who has been harmed and wrongfully deprived of my children due Ms. Manning’s unprofessional conduct, and reckless disregard to the GAL Rules of Procedure. Parents, concerned family members and interested parties need to work together to raise awareness, and work towards reforming the deeply flawed GAL program.
The State GAL Board needs to take the complaints of victimized parents and children seriously, and formally investigate Ms. Manning. If Ms. Manning has been found to have violated her duties (and I believe there is overwhelming evidence to prove this has happened), she should be immediately discharged from her position. Families are being destroyed, and children’s lives are at stake. The State GAL Board should act to protect the children involved.
There is a group of Minnesota parents who have been involved in family court litigation who are working together to reform the GAL program, called “A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger”. A Call to Action has worked hard to present their concerns to the MN State GAL Board, and ask for revisions in the complaint process (for those seeking to raise a complaint against a GAL). I am sharing the link for more info, and also in case anyone needs support or wants to help make a positive change. A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger
Several members of “A Call to Action” have Ms. Manning as their Guardian ad Litem, their experiences were written about in an article published by City Pages called “The Proxy”: SEPARATED FROM THEIR KIDS, PARENTS UNITE AGAINST ONE COURT GUARDIAN
— Emily Court
|From:||Manning, Jamie (Jamie.Manning@courts.state.mn.us)|
|Sent:||Sun –/-/09 6:21 PM|
The Court’s Order states that your parenting time “may be expanded by the Guardian ad Litem.” I will check to see if the children’s schedule would allow for a Wednesday visit. I’m glad that the telephone contact has been going well. I think it is just fine that you attend DJ’s event. My only concern is that you do not exhibit fear of M– in front of the children. This behavior is confusing to the children. M– has not exhibited threatening behavior towards you that I am aware of since my involvement with your family in July of 2007. I am pleased that the two of you appear to be improving your ability to discuss the children and work together for their best interests. It is important for the children to observe the two of you communicating in a positive and non-conflictual manner.
I will try to contact M– this week to further discuss an expanded schedule. I have been in contact with the children’s therapists and school. It is my understanding that JJ is being assessed for issues related to her speech. Hopefully we can talk this week as I will be away from my desk beginning this Thursday until the following Wednesday.
J. Manning ”