Should a Guardian ad Litem Facilitate Mediation? My Experiences with GAL & Mediation

Should a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) be allowed to mediate between parties, assisting in coming to agreements about custody and parenting time, and facilitating communication? The Minnesota Rules of Guardian ad Litem Procedure say no. However, Guardians often assume the responsibility of mediator, or facilitate back and forth communication between parties, voluntarily. Judges also frequently call Guardians to be present during mediation, which often results in the Guardian performing mediation or influencing the process.

 Let’s start the discussion…What are YOUR thoughts on the role of a Guardian ad Litem? Should they perform mediation? And what should happen if a GAL violates the rules, and acts outside of their duties? Post your thoughts and experiences (use anon name to protect your identity) in the comments below!

************

In 2008, Hennepin County 4th Judicial District, Guardian ad Litem, Jamie L. Manning facilitated a mediation between my abusive ex partner, Mr. X and his attorney “Peter Banning”, and myself (at the time I had a pro bono attorney). I did not know at the time that Guardians are prohibited from facilitating a mediation, this was done with the full knowledge of Judge ReddHerring. Ms. Manning took extensive notes on her own legal pad, which became part of my family’s file. However, the Guardian ad Litem program will not let a party view or copy their own file. In comparison, CPS records can be requested, and redacted for privacy.

A cheerful chime announced the silver elevator doors opening to the 5th floor of the Family Justice Center. I stepped onto the muted gray carpet, squared my shoulders and took a deep breath, it seemed every time I went to court, things got worse for my family.

In April 2006, I fled an abusive relationship with two traumatized children. My children both displayed behavioral and psychological problems, related to abuse. And both began to independently talk about abuse inflicted from their father. Still a toddler, my daughter was barely speaking but since I fled our home, her words tumbled out… “Daddy hit me”, “Daddy call me stupey (stupid)”… were common. Mr. X threatened that he would take the children (direct quote) “so I know how it feels to be hurt” and in June 2006, he filed for sole custody. We had been in court ever since. I was steadily losing custody of both children to the abuser who had hurt them. This man was also a wanted fugitive with 3 active warrants, a lengthy criminal and civil history, a history of various addictions and carrying on a strange relationship with his first cousin, who ran away from home at age 17 to live with him. Incredibly, while the children and I were homeless, and sleeping in our van or staying in shelters, Mr. X moved his teenage first cousin into our family home while we were still homeless.

I could not understand why Ms. Manning and the court was favoring Mr. X to the detriment of my children. Over a dozen documented allegations of child abuse had been made by my children, with reports from treating therapists, CPS and police. I am the fit, loving mom with no criminal or drug history. I had found stable housing. Had a stable job. And worked hard to re-stabilize my family. And yet, I was being criticized by the court, told it was wrong to get help for my children, and told not to speak about the abuse. My opinion of the view of Ms. Manning, supported by the judge, is that if you talk about abuse or safety concerns with the children, you are engaging in hostile behavior, and are not co-parenting in a positive way. The remedy: limit parenting time or take custody away entirely. . Where is the justice in the Family Justice Center?

Brightly colored art decorates the white walls, paintings and drawings created by adults with developmental disabilities portrayed a world of hope, one I had never realized in the Family Justice Center. To the left of the hallway is the infamous Room 535, where my custody case had been held since 2006. Across from Room 535 is a row of windows facing the Minneapolis skyline. Skyscrapers of various heights zig zagged into the horizon like a child’s tower of building blocks. To the right of the courtroom is a narrow hall with small meeting rooms. Ms. Manning was sitting in one meeting room with Mr. X and his attorney, Peter Banning. Ms. Manning usually sat with Mr. X, in the private meeting room, and they walked into court together. Ms. Manning would sometimes run out to greet me but always with a motive. She would usually question me to gain information for the upcoming hearing; and was known to twist or distort my words and use them against me. Ms. Manning never asked about the children, she has an attitude like she knows what is best, and knows better than the parents. I sat on a green cloth bench chair waiting for my attorney. I pulled my Bible out of my bag and began to read my favorite chapter, the Book of Isaiah, gathering strength.

My attorney arrived and briefly spoke to Ms. Manning. He said it would be best if Mr. X and I could come to an agreement, and that Ms. Manning offered to facilitate. I was wary, knowing Mr. X often broke his word, and knowing that he still meant me harm, even if using my children to do so (domestic violence by proxy). Still, I agreed. What other choice did I have? I sat in one room, and Mr. X and Peter Banning in the other. Ms. Manning scuttled between the two rooms, her yellow legal pad in hand, taking notes. Ms. Manning made suggestions about parenting time, including suggesting how the time should be divided, and how to manage holiday time. Ms. Manning relayed messages from Mr. X to me, communicating what he wanted. And Ms. Manning drafted the proposed parenting time order on her yellow legal pad, and read the order into the record.

My attorney was hopeful, and I wanted to be also. I know that Mr. X is a game player, and the calm façade he shows to the world is not what is boiling underneath his easy smile, and smooth words. As I had predicted, there would be trouble. The custody agreement barely held up for a few months before we were back in court, and Mr. X was again seeking sole custody of both children, and again waging ridiculous false allegations against me. It seemed we were just going through the motions, making everything appear legit for what really was happening – a fit, loving mother was losing custody to a dangerous abuser.

— Emily Court, 2015

Also posting an e-mail to show, at another time, GAL Jamie L. Manning  offered to facilitate a meeting with Mr. X and I, where she offered to help Mr. X and I establish a summer visitation schedule, and facilitate communication between the both of us. Below this e-mail, I will include the Rules of Procedure mandating the responsibilities of a Guardian below.

Jamie Manning

Jamie Manning

Manning, Jamie

6/25/09

To: —–

—–,

I am sorry that I have been unable to contact you.  I’ve had several emergency cases that I have had to deal with.  I am glad that you and Mr. X— are agreeing on additional parenting time.  Maybe the three of us should meet and decide about an appropriate summer schedule.  What is your work schedule like?  Jamie

What is a Guardian ad Litem NOT allowed to do?

  • Enforce a Court order. A guardian ad litem cannot make a party comply with a temporary order, but is responsible for notifying the Court when a parent does not follow a Court order.
  • Act as a mediator between parties.
  • Put any party’s interest ahead of the child(ren)’s interests.
  • http://www.mncourts.gov/district/4/?page=650

General Rules of Practice, Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem

 Rule 903.04. Other Roles Precluded Subd. 1.

Generally. A guardian ad litem under the supervision of the Office of the State Court Administrator shall not be ordered to, and shall not perform, the following roles in a case in which the person serves as a guardian ad litem:

  • (a) custody evaluator pursuant to Minnesota Statutes § 518.167; or
  • (b) parenting time evaluator; or
  • (c) parenting time consultant; or
  • (d) family group decision making facilitator; or
  • (e) early neutral evaluator; or
  • (f) mediator, as that role is prescribed in Minnesota Statutes § 518.619 and Rule 310 of the Minnesota Rules of Family Court Procedure; or
  • (g) arbitrator or individual authorized to decide disputes between parties;
  • (h) or parenting time expeditor, as that role is prescribed in Minnesota Statutes §§ 518.619 and 518.1751; or
  • (i) substitute decision-maker under Minnesota Statutes § 253B.092; or
  • (j) evaluator charged with conducting a home study under Minnesota Statutes §§ 245A.035 or 259.41; or (k) attorney for the child.

 518.619 CUSTODY OR VISITATION; MEDIATION SERVICES.

The purpose of the mediation proceeding is to reduce acrimony which may exist between the parties and to develop an agreement that is supportive of the child’s best interests. The mediator shall use best efforts to effect a settlement of the custody or parenting time dispute, but shall have no coercive authority.

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/court_rules/rule.php?name=gp-903

NOTE: Jamie Manning acting the capacity of a Guardian ad Litem while simultaneously conducting mediation between the parties IS exercising considerable coercive authority. Jamie has actually made implied or direct threats to me that if I do not comply with her directives, I will lose custody and/or parenting time (which has happened).

 

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About Emily Court

It takes "Just Us" To Fight Injustice in Family Court. I blog to raise awareness about problems existing in the family court system, and use my own story as a personal example of how the systemic failures in family court, and the Guardian ad Litem Program, affect families, in an effort to encourage needed reform. "Emily Court" is a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness working to create a better life for her children, in a stable home free of violence. In her efforts to rebuild her life, she has not only encountered harassment and intimidation from her alleged abuser but faced systematic failures in family court that have empowered her alleged abuser and put her children at risk. Emily is fighting to keep her kids safe, and bring them home. Through writing and blogging, Emily is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the urgent need for family court reform. She is currently working on a memoir titled "'Til Prayers Are Answered".
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14 Responses to Should a Guardian ad Litem Facilitate Mediation? My Experiences with GAL & Mediation

  1. I know several moms who have had problems with GALs. The GAL in my case knowingly lied about me in front of the judge (then denied it in front of me and my attorney) and never investigated the obvious signs of neglect and abuse and lies surrounding the case. I don’t know why my attorney did not report him even though she knew his behavior to be unethical and negligent. But because the judge did not care about taking the time to look at evidence anyway, I am not sure even a normal GAL would have been helpful. Still, this GAL just created more insanity and supported the alienating/abusing parent in my daughter’s eyes. A sick system. Shame on the attorneys who look the other way and don’t speak out and ask for professionalism in their “profession.”

  2. Reblogged this on The Real Mommies and Daddies of the Real America and Our Children Who Want to Come Home and commented:
    Hennepin County, Minnesota was recently cited in an inferior and reaching, non-persuasive defense for alleged “immunity,” judicially created, thus, judicially legislated, “immunity” theory in a notorious alleged sexual abuse case against “parents,” the plaintiffs where our friend Mindy Mitnick (sp?) was the charging court-appointed guardian ad litem (Doe v. Hennepin County, 858 F. 2d 1325 (8th Cir. 1988));(reh’g, reh’g en banc, denied Nov. 21, 1988)).

    Thanks to your blog or “CCC,” a familiar individual jumped at the chance to explain how and why that opinion had been abrogated, not to mention, out-of-circuit and typical in any case that involved allegedly pro-pedophile expert witness of choice, Ralph Underwager.

    Thank you for exposing the criminally abusive hypocrites and “Pharisees” that have set out to destroy America, most recently due to what appears to be the perfect storm of political and socio-economic and malevolent, avaricious, deceptive forces in which Federal “Responsible” Fathers, Healthy Marriage Initiatives, (Un) “SAFE” (free stalking for fathers, and any mothers who would attempt to do what in natural effect cannot be done other than in the realm of nature Papal indulgences to the wealthy) “access and ‘visitation'” and child support enforcement policy, being invidiously discriminatory against, among other “immutable” “suspect ‘classes,'” (wo)man (female gender), socio-economic [“security”/”best interests” . . . of the “state” General Fund or Treasury the “stake” holder fraudulently claimed by fiduciaries to the “public ‘trust'”‘], marital (unmarried, single) status, and young mothers who cannot afford representation in court (let us not leave out “high conflict” labeled “players” who reject the “game” as they are prime, unwitting targets of _________for experimentation along with their private, real property sometimes “referred” as “child(ren)” . . . without due compensation or informed and sufficient or timely con sent the “subjects” of involuntary servitude by way of retroactive slavery being surrogate mothers who unknowingly and involuntarily bore the fruits of he/r labor, healthy, happy, intelligent, and polite only to have property “child’ unreasonably kidnapped, or, “removed” by force for no good cause or crime save for obeying the statutory codes of “state” “military enclaves” and ” ‘catchment’ ‘zones.'”

    So Mitnick, GAL extraordinaire, is still at it up there eh? He/r “special knowledge” came to me by way of sound cloud in, if I am recalling correctly, the “Banken v. Banken” or Rice case??? Don’t quote me on that.

    The Next Nuremberg Trials are going to have to include a new category for the guardian ad litem, amicus, and attorneys ad litem in addition to the “judges” and “doctors'” trials. Front row seats–who is selling tickets? Hey, that’s not a bad idea since they deprived us of the ability to earn a living by way of at least ten national, “state,” local, and agency lists–as Dale Carson, former FBI agent in Cook County in Chicago and no less notorious Duval County, Florida police officer or son of a judge there sent down to clean-up corruption mid-century terms it in his comical, yet short and informative book, “How to Police-Proof Yourself for Dummies 101, “the digital plantation.”

    • Emily Court says:

      My heart goes out to you JRM, and to all the children suffering through this nightmare of being forced to live with an abuser. I can hear the pain in every word you write. I have been through alot of grieving myself, and can honestly say, there will also be a time of healing (though things will never be the same). We can take the struggles and turn it into a force for good. As parents, and survivors, our strength is in our love for our children. xo Emily xo

  3. Hennepin County, Minnesota was recently cited in an inferior and reaching, non-persuasive defense for alleged “immunity,” judicially created, thus, judicially legislated, “immunity” theory in a notorious alleged sexual abuse case against “parents,” the plaintiffs where our friend Mindy Mitnick (sp?) was the charging court-appointed guardian ad litem (Doe v. Hennepin County, 858 F. 2d 1325 (8th Cir. 1988));(reh’g, reh’g en banc, denied Nov. 21, 1988)).

    Thanks to your blog or “CCC,” a familiar individual jumped at the chance to explain how and why that opinion had been abrogated, not to mention, out-of-circuit and typical in any case that involved allegedly pro-pedophile expert witness of choice, Ralph Underwager.

    Thank you for exposing the criminally abusive hypocrites and “Pharisees” that have set out to destroy America, most recently due to what appears to be the perfect storm of political and socio-economic and malevolent, avaricious, deceptive forces in which Federal “Responsible” Fathers, Healthy Marriage Initiatives, (Un) “SAFE” (free stalking for fathers, and any mothers who would attempt to do what in natural effect cannot be done other than in the realm of nature Papal indulgences to the wealthy) “access and ‘visitation'” and child support enforcement policy, being invidiously discriminatory against, among other “immutable” “suspect ‘classes,'” (wo)man (female gender), socio-economic [“security”/”best interests” . . . of the “state” General Fund or Treasury the “stake” holder fraudulently claimed by fiduciaries to the “public ‘trust'”‘], marital (unmarried, single) status, and young mothers who cannot afford representation in court (let us not leave out “high conflict” labeled “players” who reject the “game” as they are prime, unwitting targets of _________for experimentation along with their private, real property sometimes “referred” as “child(ren)” . . . without due compensation or informed and sufficient or timely con sent the “subjects” of involuntary servitude by way of retroactive slavery being surrogate mothers who unknowingly and involuntarily bore the fruits of he/r labor, healthy, happy, intelligent, and polite only to have property “child’ unreasonably kidnapped, or, “removed” by force for no good cause or crime save for obeying the statutory codes of “state” “military enclaves” and ” ‘catchment’ ‘zones.'”

    So Mitnick, GAL extraordinaire, is still at it up there eh? He/r “special knowledge” came to me by way of sound cloud in, if I am recalling correctly, the “Banken v. Banken” or Rice case??? Don’t quote me on that.

    The Next Nuremberg Trials are going to have to include a new category for the guardian ad litem, amicus, and attorneys ad litem in addition to the “judges” and “doctors'” trials. Front row seats–who is selling tickets? Hey, that’s not a bad idea since they deprived us of the ability to earn a living by way of at least ten national, “state,” local, and agency lists–as Dale Carson, former FBI agent in Cook County in Chicago and no less notorious Duval County, Florida police officer or son of a judge there sent down to clean-up corruption mid-century terms it in his comical, yet short and informative book, “How to Police-Proof Yourself for Dummies 101, “the digital plantation.”

  4. “Daddy called me ‘Stupey?” Don’t universal rules of manners teach that the only “stupid” people are those who use such words ( such words . . . about other older children/adolescents and adults, that is). But a little one? Oh, if the stool pigeons could read my Orwellian fiction “thought” justice right now–pardone moi, for I meant to say God’s just US in Him redeemed.

    It has been a serious pet peeve of mine, especially lately as the word seems to be used more frequently than it did in American Dark Age of institutions his story– that not only the ‘Stupeys’ on whom we are to have mercy and pray for and de-liver Below . . . way Below, the “state” schemes/schemata/statutes cruelly and ignorantly use the words mentally :”r _ _ _ _ _ ed” or “handi _ _ _ _ _ _.” Even at the height of the Institutional Age in America and newly formed Children’s Aid ‘n’ A bet Eugenicst Soci ally Darwinistic Socio-Economic Societies, “stupey” was doled the appearance of dignity and class in its pronunciation, idiot savant (en francaise, no less). Idiot (pronounced in French, sounds much more en-lightened and idiot savant denotes special “G.I.F.T.S” worth preserving, “Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfers.”

    Does this mean that a “citizen” should substitute the more superficially sophisticated sounding locution for “stupey” “stool pigeon” attorner/attorney, for example, where any such a one attorner proclaiming the honor not only defends, but also appears to ful fill his owned wanton needs by his irresistibly masculine clien tele meets holly/ holy “stick” when he de fens him against fit mothers in such situ ations?

  5. Linda Shelton says:

    Reblogged this on Dr Linda Shelton and commented:
    Guardian ad litem abuses in divorce remain systemic problem throughout U. S.

  6. Chris says:

    A Guardian ad Litem is supposed to advocate for what is best for children. What that means seems subject to alot of interpretation, and too often creates an abuse of power or the GAL actually interfering in the rights of parents. A GAL should NOT be mediating between parties. It is against the law, and there are professional services for that. Btw you can file a complaint against a mediator and be heard by a board – a GAL has immunity. Immunity should not mean that a GAL can do whatever they want.

  7. Pingback: Should a Guardian ad Litem Facilitate Mediation? My Experiences with GAL & Mediation | PARENTS HEALING FROM ESTRANGEMENT

  8. Great article…family court is such a scam.. my heart breaks for you. I went through something similar for 5 years as the court failed to entire my parenting time and eventually took it away when I complained to authorities and fbi. See http://www.njcourtcorruption.com

  9. Diane says:

    My granddaughters GAL did absolutely nothing . According to the mn statues rules for GAL, she did not do one of the duties on the list . In 18 months she saw the children once for a half hour. But she was in court every time sitting and whispering with social worker , laughing and talking about getting their hair done . She and social worker were BFF’s. So they conspired together and whatever they wanted , judge went along with it. She was very rude to me when I questioned her on her duties , so unprofessional ! She should be fired ! Very biased ! And our hard working tax dollars pay their wage ! ! !

    • Emily Court says:

      Diane- So sorry for what your family is dealing with. You are not alone, many other parents in Minnesota are also encountering systemic problems and abuses of power in the Guardian ad Litem program.

      You may want to contact A Call to Action, they are a group of protective parents in Minnesota working to reform the Guardian ad Litem Program, and family court system. You can reach A Call to Action by e-mail at:
      victimsofmanning at hotmail.com OR pakcomments at live.com

      I will hold you are your family up in prayer.

      Warm Regards, Emily

Comments are welcome on FCI. We appreciated thoughtful and respectful comments/feedback that offers a variety of views. Any view or opinion represented in the blog comments are personal and belong to the respective commentor. This blogger reserves the right to moderate comments for suitability and may remove or edit comments that contain abusive or offensive language, images, links or accusations. Comments may also be removed if they contain personal information, identifying information or sensitive details about your location, case, minor children, those involved in your case. Please do not post full articles from other sites, as it could be a violation of copyright or intellectual property laws. Thanks for visiting!!

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