Thoughts on Issues with a Lawyer Guardian Ad-Litem in Matters of Child Custody

Doug Dante DougDante1@yahoo.com May 19, 2009 I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Upon receipt of a recommendation from an LGAL with which I disagreed, I would seek competent legal help for myself if I had not done so already. With my lawyer, I might seek to suppress the content of this motion on the grounds that it is a "recommendation" , and that it may not be admitted into evidence without my stipulation to the admission of the report, and I don't stipulate to its admission: MCL 722.24: "(3) In a proceeding in which a lawyer-guardian ad litem represents a child, he or she may file a written report and recommendation. The court may read the report and recommendation. The court shall not, however, admit the report and recommendation into evidence unless all parties stipulate the admission. The parties may make use of the report and recommendation for purposes of a settlement conference." http://legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=m cl-722-24 Unfortunately, there have been some reports that some LGALs have betrayed their minor clients by accepting secret instructions from the judge to recommend or act in one way or another. Since the judge often has control of their income, in one way or another, some LGALs may be inclined to act on behalf of the court, violating their duties to their minor clients. This is just a general link regarding the fact that lawyers and judges are mandated reporters of legal ethics: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2618443/YOU-are-a-mandated-reporter And a reminder that the court has a financial conflict of interest in child custody matters: http://www.scribd.com/doc/630611/A-Quick-Summary-of-Title-IVDFunding-and-Incentives

If I were you, I would discuss with my lawyer demanding that I be allowed to ask the LGAL questions under oath, because of the LGAL's conflict of interests, and because of my fourteenth amendment due process rights to the care and custody of my child. I would also review the Michigan (lawyer) Rules of Professional Conduct and quiz the LGAL about anything that I feel is questionable: http://www.law.Cornell.edu/ethics/mi/code/ Questions could include: Who is your client? (The child) Did you speak with your client regarding this issue? What, if any, communications did you have regarding this case with the judge or any other interested parties who were not your client? (Ask in detail about each person and contact) Did the judge or anyone else besides your client instruct you or encourage you to take or not take any action in your representation of your client? Do you feel any pressure from the judge or anyone else to take or not take any action in your representation of your client? In the past, did any judge or anyone else who is not your client ever express to you any pressure to act or not act in a certain way in your representation of any child client? Did the judge or anyone else who is not your client express concerns that your actions or inactions in representing children could have a financial impact on the court, the Friend of the Court, or any person or institution? Are you aware of any impact that your actions or inactions as an LGAL may have on the court, the friend of the court, or any other institution connected with the judiciary? Are you aware of Title IV-D funding? (If yes) How is the cost or benefits to the court or government of the child effected by your decisions as his/her lawyer? (I might ask my lawyer to consider asking follow ups here or later to clarify any previous answers)

How do you get paid? How do you get selected to be an LGAL in each case? How much income do you derive each year from representing child clients? What portion of your total income is that? Do you obey all of the rules of professional conduct for a Michigan Lawyer? (might ask this last) In your professional opinion, If you cause problems with the judge, Friend of the Court, or anyone else in the judiciary or local government with your zealous representation of your client's interests, could you possibly lose some of this income? (If no) So it's your position that you could, in the interests of your client, trigger civil and criminal litigation that caused millions of dollars in damages to the local court and FOC, and they would dutifully continue to assign you cases with absolutely no repercussions? And that you have no qualms what-so-ever about doing so if it is in the interests of your client? It may be the case that the LGAL is under heavy pressure from the judge, but will lie under oath. Depending on the lawyer's answers, particularly if the LGAL appears especially nervous or evasive, I might consider further investigation of the situation, including talking to various people to see if I can find a witness to contradict the LGAL.