Sunday, February 2, 2014

About the GAL

I'm looking through my notes as we prepare to file our appeal. Sometimes time passes faster than you realize.

Let me tell you about our GAL, Ms.Carsandra Buie. First I have to back up to when I had to do four supervised visits at YANA (You Are Not Alone, supervised visitation center), followed by "visitation as agreed on by the parties"

We finished YANA. I suggested multiple visitation schedules. My mother's response was to file for a guardian ad litem.  And conveniently her lawyer already knew one who was willing to take the case pro bono.  You may have heard of her before, she ran for judge at one point, and she presents a good front of her good works with abused children. Which may or may not be a load of crap, I don't know. She certainly dropped the ball for my child. As a result, I have a horrible first impression of the Seminole County Guardian Ad Litem program, when honestly I don't know if the whole program is corrupt or just her.

The first time I met the GAL, she approached me in the hallway outside the courtroom and berated me about how if I pushed this I would lose my child, and that is what she planned to tell the magistrate, And basically that I should just go wander off somewhere else and leave my son alone to call his Grandma "Mom" and his aunt his sister.

I look through my notes and see that since her appointment in Feb 2011, this GAL has telephoned me three times and visited my house twice, each time for less than 10 minutes and the first time she didn't even ask to see my son's room. That is FIVE TIMES in the last three years that I have spoken with the GAL appointed to represent my son's "best interests" (Note: a child's best interest does not always agree with what the child WANTS)

By her own admission in her report, she only attempted to speak to 2 of his 7 teachers, both of which were unavailable and she never ended up speaking to. She states that my son made excellent grades while living in his grandmother's home, but school records show otherwise. So how much research did this woman actually DO into the two environments? While they argue "best interest" they refuse to even compare the two homes; one single grandparent on welfare and disability with minimal contact and interaction with dysfunctional extended family that allows other adults to openly insult and villify the parent in front of and directly to the child (with written proof) that allows the child to make ALL of his own decision vs a two parent tax paying household with two other children that excel both socially and academically because they are held to the expectations of the household to learn responsibility and that has a functional extended family for support.

If that, combined with the fact that she was hand picked by opposing counsel wasn't enough to make me concerned about her position (but it was, I have been suspicious of her since the way she approached me at our introduction) then THIS certainly would August 2013 the GAL and opposing counsel informed the court at one of our hearings that they were now sharing an office space.

My motion for her dismissal was filed last August, immediately after that hearing, but to this date (in February 2014) has not been heard or ruled on, and the same GAL is still on the case. Not that I've spoken to her or anything, but it certainly makes it harder to coordinate hearings with THREE lawyers schedules to work around, now doesn't it? And so the wheels of justice remain too clogged to turn. And my son gets older.

So why is it that the judge hasn't removed her 6 months later? There is clearly a conflict of interest if the GAL and opposing counsel are sharing an office space, despite their claims in the courtroom that it's ok because they have an "invisible wall" concerning this case, and they never talk about it. Oh, give me a break!
But apparently that lame excuse was enough for this judge (Judge Linda Schoonover), because the GAL has yet to be dismissed.  Funnily enough, last week the GAL contacted my lawyer to say that she has agreed to withdraw herself if I will withdraw my motion for her dismissal because she doesn't want it to affect things if she decides to run for judge in the future.  I told my attorney we withdraw NOTHING until after she has actually removed herself.  But let me just laugh quietly to myself for a if I am not going to actively voice my thoughts about her to all who will listen, should she try to run again. Because to me, someone of her level of unprofessionalism and corruption has no business deciding people's lives. As far as I'm concerned, she shouldn't be "helping" children as a guardian ad litem, either. As it stands, she has yet to withdraw herself from my case, despite her offer to do so.

I would advise noncustodial parents to be proactive if they feel their Guardian Ad Litem is not communicating enough and/or not looking out for their child's best interests. Call them. Don't let them go a year without MAKING them speak to a parent of the child they are supposed to be advocating for. I know it is hard and the weight of it all feels tremendous. It is designed to feel that way. Just hang in there!

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