Just finished reading “GALs are Withdrawing From Cases As Court Reform Tensions Grow” in the Connecticut Law Tribune. The article states that some lawyers and firms are no longer accepting court appointed cases:
Other lawyers and law firms that are bowing out of the court-appointed work for the time being include Glastonbury-based Brown, Paindiris & Scott, Budlong & Barrett in Hartford, Jeffrey Mickelson in Hartford, and Barry Armata.
This is most unfortunate. I’ve handled several high conflict custody cases over the past 8.5 years. Fortunately, none are occupying my life at the moment. I avoid them unless I think my representation can make a difference for the children involved.
I’ve read some of what has been posted online about Guardian Ad Litems. Frankly, I understand some of the frustration. Messy child custody cases are inherently frustrating because there is no solution. There is only fighting.
Some years ago, I have a case with the potential to get very messy. There are the usual allegations. There are disputes over money. This case has everything it takes to turn into a mess.
Barry Armata gets involved. I forget how. Either opposing counsel and I discussed having him appointed as GAL or the court ordered it. But how he gets involved is a lot less important than what he does.
The court we are in has a cafe. Barry sits down with opposing counsel and me over coffee while court is in recess. He begins laying out a framework to solve some of the issues in the case. He listens to us. He then meets with our clients. Barry recommends getting the case into an “early intervention program” which everyone agrees to. Court ends and our clients have meetings scheduled with Barry.
I wasn’t at my client’s meeting with Barry. But I know my client felt listened to and treated with respect. I know this made a difference to my client.
When we arrived in court for a full day of early intervention, Barry had the trust of both parents. The issues in the divorce were for reasons beyond the scope of this post – highly sensitive and emotionally charged. Barry laid the groundwork for those matters to be discussed in a rational and sensitive manner.
Our full day of early intervention was exhausting. There were many problems to be solved. Many issues to confront. And times everyone thought it discussions would fall apart. They didn’t in large part because of Barry.
By the end of the day, there was an agreement. An agreement that spared the parties a fortune in both time, money, and energy. An agreement that spared a child from years of her parents fighting. An agreement that 4 years later, nobody has sought to modify.
For this, Barry was paid a very modest fee. There are many other ways both in the practice of law and out of the practice of law that he could have earned more money for less hassle.
It’s important for the General Assembly to understand the important work of Guardian Ad Litems in divorce cases. Not all cases turn out like mine. But in many cases, trained GALs can save a lot of money, time, and aggravation.
Court appointed cases are often the most challenging for GALs. Parties are often not represented. These are often high need cases. Cases where skilled work, like that regularly done by Barry Armata is most needed. I hope this storm cloud passes and lawyers like Barry Armata return to accepting appointments.