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Understanding GAL Misconduct via The Augusta Chronicle

Augusta news media have picked up what we think of as the HeartBeat of its citizens.

This is the burning desire of parents and grandparents to be able to nurture and provide for their children. And to keep them safe.

Housing and employment are critical as well, but in at least one case in every county we see these being taken wrongfully from good parents. The Roberson case in Augusta, as reported in by WFXG and The Augusta Chronicle, is a perfect example. Another case in Hall County is a stunning example of the court allowing fraud to occur for the sake of stealing property and work tools, while putting a child and father wrongfully out on the street. In Cobb County a mother is having to give up her profitable franchise business all because a guardian is dragging out a case to earn more fees, by saying a father indicted on child porn charges should have unsupervised access to children. Different cases, but the same pattern of fraud used to steal and destroy.

This burning desire to change this situation – for the sake of children – is not unique to Augusta, and as pointed out the damages caused by certain custody experts and other court professionals can be seen all around Atlanta. All it took was the will, the financial resources, the emotional tolerance and the time to start analyzing these cases, and to continue the work throughout Georgia. The damages here mirror what families around the country are experiencing.

It really boils down to corruption, which we often refer to as bad practices, because most people cannot picture what corruption looks like – how it plays out – at least not in family court.

As the Augusta Chronicle says so clearly, “It’s very, very wrong” and “stunning” in terms of the lack of accountability. In our analysis of over 100 cases in Georgia we’ve seen not one incident of professionals reporting on others they know to be clearly violating ethics rules and/or laws. This includes laws put in place to protect children from abuse, or to protect victims of violence or sexual assault.

What is glaring beyond belief in Augusta is that Superior Court judges knew that the guardian ad litem being appointed to child custody cases was preying on vulnerable women, trying to coerce them – and even a witness on a case – into having sex with him. Those who did not comply lost their children. Most still do not have their children with them, are devastated financially and emotionally, and Doug Nelson now has a new job. Would you be surprised to know that his new job is allegedly back in the court system?

Somehow our court system, or certain professionals controlling family court matters, decided it is okay to put profits over the needs of children, to just ignore laws and every rule governing professional conduct or judicial conduct.

Advocating_truth_MAC 2014

So as the number of families negatively impacted has grown, so has the beat gotten louder as more hearts have been broken.  Time for open discussion and greater public awareness.  Time to do something about these pounding hearts aching to have children returned and protected by loving parents.

We are not hesitant to ask for certain custody cases in certain jurisdictions to be reviewed and examined closely. The heated public discussion about what the reality is for parents being held hostage in these child custody fights demands that we follow through on this.

We hope more families will have a chance to recover now that public support is triggered and focused on the cause of their losses. So now we need to take a closer look.

The Augusta Chronicle in this opinion piece takes some of the guesswork out of the question being raised about why so many parents and children are being harmed in this process. What we are hoping parents will get for right now is that following advice blindly when facing a legal conflict in the family court system may not be the best approach.

Learn the process, talk to people who have been through it, and do due diligence on professionals before you hire or agree to subject yourself to someone else’s judgment or oversight.  All guardian ad litem and custody “expert” professionals are not created equal, that one thing is for sure. As treacherous as it appears to be in Augusta, Atlanta and in other areas in Georgia and the US, there are a good number of ethical and talented professionals, so if you have a good experience we encourage those names to be shared as well.

This is an excerpt that stands out and we expect much more animated debate around this topic in the coming months as more parents come forward after realizing that it was not just their imagination that something wasn’t “normal” or right on their case.

“Even though guardian ad litem reports are only recommendations that judges can accept or reject, both the woman in the Chronicle story and the divorced parent we talked to said their attorneys advised them not to report Nelson’s behavior, for fear of what he could do to them in his report.

We find that unconscionable, but also horribly bad legal advice – to sweep inappropriate behavior under the rug.

It shocks the senses to think of a court-appointed official preying on women who are in some of the most vulnerable states in their lives, while going through divorce with children.

The lack of accountability and responsibility in the system is stunning.”

Augusta has named Doug Nelson as one of the main custody experts who has harmed good parents and their children, but he doesn’t work alone in all cases. The next step is to determine which professionals teamed up with him to ignore evidence and guide cases to the wrong outcomes.

In some Atlanta cases we could see where Dr. Howard Drutman has worked with GAL Jim Holmes to suppress evidence of child abuse, and the same pattern has occurred with Dr. Drutman and other GALs in the Atlanta area, including attorney Larry Yarbrough who openly said he was working to protect the alleged molester in Cobb County (which the record reflects he has done).  This is just how they operate, when it is profitable and possible for this to happen. The rules, laws and needs of children just do not factor in with certain professionals, as the investigation into GAL Doug Nelson as proven for everyone. When parents attempt to stand up for themselves and fight to PROTECT their children, they are intimidated and retaliated against.

This is why we are adamant that this innocent father in Augusta be exonerated in his “criminal” trial in Columbia County. He didn’t do anything wrong…but he did work hard to fight for his rights to care for and protect his daughter. He was not allowed to have motions heard, has been jailed for many weeks now and key witnesses have been blocked from testifying. Can you guess who was involved in making this situation happen? Yes, a “doctor” acting as a custody expert. Check out the facts of this case and stay tuned to the news reports coming out.

Now that we know there is a problem, and we can see one source of the problem, let’s regroup on why it is so easy for this exploitation of parents and children to continue.  Join in as we work on #TurningTheTables on bad practices in Family Court.
By contrast, this mother’s case was damaged, with her children moved out of state without her knowledge, by the judge and the father’s attorney and not by the Guardians ad Litem who both recommended the children stay with their mother:

Mission: Improve Family Law

Why is My Advocate Center a mission, or considered a public service?

The public trust is being destroyed at an alarming rate around our legal system.  This is not just a family court issue, of course, but our focus with this organization is on what is happening to parents and children, and what can be done to restore balance, help families recover faster, and to prevent more of the misconduct that is driving a severely negative aftermath.

What this Situation looks like to families:

  • Parents are being deceived as they go through divorce, manipulated due to their vulnerable emotional state.
    • They are experiencing escalated and prolonged conflict rather than advocacy designed to lower and end conflict.
    • They are losing everything they have in the process, rather than having resources (including time and health) preserved for the benefit of their children.
  • Parents are losing their right to time with their children and the right to nurture and protect children.
    • This is happening to both fathers and mothers, and in contrast to what the evidence of the case dictates.
    • This is in conflict with our laws & ethics rules governing family court professionals. It is in conflict with common sense and with our humanity.
  • Our reporting stemming from the investigation of these cases explains that in many cases, the healthier parent is often targeted for loss and undermined with regard to providing for children and with regard to the financial outcome.
    • This is occurring while the more dysfunctional or vindictive parent is rewarded for using foul play.
    • It appears there is a simple profit motive for cases to be managed toward this end.  The more you incite an “off-balance” or vindictive party, or the more risk you create for a child, the more desperate the other parent will be to litigate to restore balance or prevent loss.
    • The examination of billing records by many attorneys and custody experts provides a clear picture of the motive behind the mismanagement of cases and the abandonment of ethics.
  • Children are losing the best of both parents in many situations, as one or both parents are removed from the children and to a degree that is either not necessary.
    • What is being done to parents in a large number of cases is not in keeping with the facts of the case.  If you look at each case it is clear that what is being told or done to parents by professionals is either causing or exacerbating the problem.
    • The damages, the worsened outcomes, are beyond what these parents would cause or experience on their own.
  • These families are not just dividing assets and time; they are being destroyed, and the mental health damages are on the rise.
    • These leads to more addiction, more violence, and more trauma for children.
    • This also means that in cases involving child abuse, the children are losing the parent who is more nurturing and protective, and they are often subjected to more abuse.
  • Parents are so distracted & destabilized by the process, by what certain professionals are doing and saying to them, that they feel helpless and hopeless.
    • They cannot make informed or good decisions, and until it is too late, they do not realize that they have been set up to fail.
    • Many are losing their homes as a result.
  • Many litigants lose control after realizing that much of what was done to them and to their children was done intentionally.  The trauma from the betrayal combined with their losses is too much for some, and we have seen suicide and other devastation.
  • Some parents work to learn the truth surrounding how their cases were handled, and are finding that it is virtually impossible to correct the damages or to have accountability for the professionals who caused the damages.
    • After vetting many dozens of cases in this area, a clear pattern has surfaced which reveals that certain attorneys, custody experts, financial advisors and judges are cooperating to cause the damages and to cover for each other.
    • This realization is leading to a desperate and outraged public.  With no end in sight for consumers, there is no hope for the public to trust our legal system.
  • Even more parents are too destabilized, or too ashamed to acknowledge what was done to them, to even be able to speak up and ask for help.  This serves to feed desperation and bitterness, while also enabling the misconduct to continue and even increase.

It is critical now that we work together as a State to avoid more of this where and when possible.

My Advocate Center helps you see the path ahead, like never before possible.

My Advocate Center helps you see the path ahead, like never before possible.

Solutions:

We believe all of this does not need to be the case, and that there are solutions that are positive, inclusive and that can benefit parents and children across the socio-economic spectrum, from all areas of our state.

These solutions benefit both consumers and professionals, while also serving to uplift our schools, law enforcement and our government agencies — as healthier, more intact families make contributions to community and help reduce waste and time lost from school, work and life.

  • We are working on a number of cases right now where we can demonstrate that it IS possible to make corrections and to restore balance.
    • Transparency is being introduced where none existed before.
    • Identifying & supporting the right legal professionals as they advocate for corrections in a way that serves the real needs of children is key.  It is clear now that there are attorneys who believe in upholding the needs of parents and children, and who take fiduciary duty & the standards of care seriously. They are using available evidence to reach the best outcomes, protecting clients and children in an ethical manner.
    • Our healthcare community plays a critical role in supporting families, but is currently under-utilized in serving the mental health needs of parents dealing with conflict and dysfunction.
    • More upstanding medical & psychological professionals are showing support and speaking up, offering help on these cases.
    • Demonstrating what is possible when parents can address their real mental health needs, and while being served with honest and loyal guidance from legal & financial professionals will do much to create positive changes to the negative trends described here.
  • The forward-thinking part of our mission is to create an informed public who will seek out the best counseling early in the process, where prevention and intervention can take place.

Improving the Family Law Environment:

  • Doing this work will go a long way toward restoring the public trust, to restoring balance in a way that helps our legal system function as it was designed to – for the benefit of our citizens and their children.
  • Parents and children will have a voice and a way to be heard that makes a difference in how they are treated in our legal system, and in a way that leads to better outcomes and faster recovery.

With the help of our advisors from various civic and business sectors My Advocate Center has developed white papers and case studies that address both problems and solutions related to the damages being caused to far too many parents and children in Georgia.

In these documents we outline the various components of this industry in a way that will help you understand the big picture, specifically why thousands of people and children are left in worse shape than where they were found before entering the legal system.  This section on our website was designed to present some of the highlights.

Perspective:

There are several key points we ask you to keep in mind as you read and digest our reports:

  • The extent of the damages being caused to good parents and to children is unnecessary.
    • Divorce is bad enough, but what the process is doing to families is worse than what even “high conflict” parents do to each other, and it is worse than what the children are experiencing before their parents enter the legal process.
    • We are asking you to focus on why that is the case, who is driving this situation and preventing transparency and accountability.
  • While this is a large and complicated problem, we believe nothing is impossible.  The alliance that has been forming to start shifting and correcting these issues has powerful resources.
  • A growing percentage of our population believes that all legal professionals, including all judges, are corrupt.  Many see the whole system as broken, and want it taken down.
  • Our leadership sees extensive damages, large numbers of cases being mishandled with a worsening aftermath for children and for parents.
    • Their mental & physical health are negatively impacted by trauma created from professional misconduct layered on top of naturally occurring losses.
    • Parents are finding they cannot provide for their children because of what was taken from them financially, and they are losing their ability to work and be productive, or to recover as they might have otherwise.
    • These parents and children are unable to thrive and contribute in our communities, certainly not in the way they would have without this additional damage.
  • However, we at My Advocate Center and those in our alliance do not see that this is caused by a completely “broken system” but rather it is caused by a select group in each sector of the legal system who choose to exploit for financial gain.
    • Not all attorneys, judges and custody or financial experts who serve in family court do business this way.
    • By focusing on those professionals who uphold families, laws and ethics rules we can improve this situation.

Please contact us to learn more and to request your copy of our White Paper or to review case studies appropriate to your area of interest.

Naming Names – Help for Parents Caught in Conflict

You’ve now seen through press coverage of specific stories that certain judges are being influenced – in an inappropriate way – by certain attorneys and custody experts.  Many of you are asking, “So who are the others doing this?”

Obviously, as your comments reflect, there are more than a few people engaged in misconduct and in covering it up, or these actions would not be so blatant, and so profitable.

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This “hidden influence” is leading not only to financial and emotional damage to good parents, but also leading to physical and emotional damages to children.

The impact on our community is tremendous – and virtually no one is immune to what is going on.

But we should all be putting our foot down collectively over the damages to our childrenWe are seeing children develop severe, long term medical/emotional problems that would not be occurring otherwise.

This trauma is leading to drug problems, truancy, jail time and even suicide.

That alone is worth naming names publicly of those contributing to or benefitting from the court-related misconduct, and working toward transparency and accountability.  (Yes, we are inviting discussion with these professionals, asking for help in restoring health, peace & support for these families and children.  It is the ONLY right option, and it’s not too late to shift gears and help rather than harm.)

Please feel free to submit via PRIVATE email here on this website or via PRIVATE message on Facebook the names of professionals who have conducted themselves in similar fashion. 

The best means of sharing information is to Contact Us HERE.

We don’t need a lot of detail for now, just enough to know that a bad/harmful outcome was obtained because professionals ignored or suppressed evidence that, if the laws and ethics rules were being followed, would have been used to provide protections and support.  Should you want to discuss your case or situation further, let us know and we will provide you with our Intake Form.

Any and all legal advice must come from an attorney licensed in the State of Georgia, so please note that submitting information – while we treat with all possible confidentiality and view submissions as sensitive – is not considered “attorney-client privileged.”

We are not attorneys but do have legal, financial & psychological advisors on stand-by and will help inform you so that you know you are in the right hands going forward.  (If you have peace of mind about those supporting you, you’ll make better decisions..meaning your children will be better cared for.)

Information can be shared with our Resource Team and advisors by telephone or in person if digital/email communications are not appropriate for your situation.  You can also submit evidence directly to contacts with press or law enforcement, and we can arrange to help you with that if appropriate;  just get the information where it can be followed through on.

At a minimum, and for starters, if you have a case where you can show what appears to be professional misconduct, you should immediately call the State Bar and request a grievance form.  We’ve been told, “If people are being harmed, then WHY are they not filing grievances with us?”

So, please do ask for those forms, fill them out, send them in on a timely basis.  (If you need assistance, we have good malpractice attorneys available to consult with you on this process.  Note that this is hourly fee-based work, but worth it if you can afford to pay it.)

The more information that comes to light about misconduct and cases being mishandled, the better our community can be served.

*Our job is NOT to act as law enforcement or reporters, but our mission includes informing and empowering those entities responsible for reporting and protecting.

Professionals: if you are committed to upholding laws, ethics rules, fiduciary duty and the needs of your clients – and especially their children’s needs – please let us know if you would like to help with these cases coming in.

One part of our mission is to help the State Bar fully realize the nature of the misconduct and the extent of the damages, and to influence this conduct to cease.

Give parents and children a chance to recover, so that they can thrive as they would be doing but for the interference, misconduct and hidden influence as described in the press coverage.

Going forward, we are working hard to help families transition through and out of conflict faster, to support children in receiving the best that both parents have to offer, and to allow the family’s resources to be preserved for the benefit of children and parents.

Children deserve to be healthy and supported, in the care of loving and available parents, and they deserve to see their parents thriving in this role.  Anything else is not natural, and does interfere with the child’s development and future.

Sometimes it’s OK to be seen as controversial, or even “radical” as certain guilty parties like to say… But here goes: Shame on you if you disagree with this, or if you stand in the way.

If you are a parent who has hired and used professionals engaged in these tactics… aimed at harming the other parent, please know that there is a way to correct your situation without making things worse.

We are especially asking you to reconsider this situation.  You’ve probably already done enough harm to the other parent to feel that sick sense of satisfaction…not that it’s ever enough when your temper is raging or when you are feeling wounded.

Just know this: There is a way to meet in the middle, better serve your children, and allow your family to move forward with less conflict, expense and stress.  For sure, having a conversation about options will not do you any harm. (We won’t tell if YOU won’t!)

Thank you for your trust and your support.