Thursday, October 8, 2009

Firsthand account

Posted on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 4:00 AM

As someone who has been involved doing guardian ad litem (GAL) work for more than a dozen years, I can surely agree with Montanans Supporting Guardian Guidelines (MSGG) that the law governing GALs in Montana needs overhauling (see “Guiding the guardians,” Oct. 1, 2009).

There certainly are GALs who are terrific, competent, compassionate and wise. There are also GALs who are horrible, incompetent, arrogant and foolish. I know for sure that’s a fact, because I am both—depending on the parent you are talking to.

But even the most dedicated of us have had to fly by dead reckoning. Under the present system, there are no rules governing the specifics of what a GAL does or does not do. One result is that we have had to more or less invent ourselves. This lack of legal structure has affected the judges, too. They have also had to make up their own minds about what the GAL should do; and any GAL will tell you that every judge has his or her own ideas about that.

I think most of us who have worked in the field would be downright grateful to have a statute that spells out with some precision what a GAL does and does not do.

For myself, I think the law should also require ongoing continuing education—in basic knowledge of family law for us non-attorneys, and in family structure and dynamics, child development and other such areas for those, like most lawyers, who have no background there.

So, to the people who got the MSGG ball rolling—you done good!

Paul W. Moomaw Missoula
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