An Antidote for Alienation: Appointing a GAL in your Connecticut Domestic Violence Case

The best criminal lawyers in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien Connecticut frequently see family and divorce case drama spill into criminal court, specifically the Stamford, Danbury and Norwalk Superior Court domestic violence dockets. The best family court lawyers in Fairfield County are routinely leveraging an adversary spouse’s arrest in divorce court, filing emergency motions for custody, supervised visitation and drug testing, based on minor arrests and allegations of Disorderly Conduct, Breach of Peace in the Second Degree and Interference with Police. DCF is called in more for show than substance, and by that point, you can’t blame the family court and criminal court judges for hesitating and issuing onerous Full No Contact protective orders until the dust settles.

What are the top criminal law firms in Greenwich, Darien, Stamford, Ridgefield and Westport Connecticut doing to fight back? For starters, they are invoking a little-known and seldom-used Connecticut Practice Book device in the Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury and Norwalk domestic violence courts that automatically appoints a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) in the criminal courts, many times separate and distinct from the GAL assisting in the family court action. It’s one of the best keep secrets in Connecticut DV court…

Your Lawyer Must Make a Practice Book 44-20 Motion for a GAL at the Domestic Violence Arraignment

As the best criminal lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Wilton and elsewhere in Connecticut frequently see, felony Risk of Injury arrests under CGS 53-21 are often tacked on to many minor Connecticut domestic violence arrests such as Breach of Peace and Disorderly Conduct, simply because minor children were somewhere in the home or in the vicinity of the domestic dispute. The Connecticut Risk of Injury arrest can then warrant a Full / Residential Stay-Away criminal protective order, preventing your client from being allowed in the family home, and can also trigger a Connecticut DCF investigation. Aggressive divorce lawyers use this opportunity at the arraignment to pile on allegations of prior abuse and addiction issues, giving Family Relations little choice but to recommend a heavy-handed restraining / protective order. Many times it’s a calculated smoke screen that needs to be cleared up as quickly as possible. (To that end, follow this link to read more about how to NOT get ambushed in criminal court by aggressive divorce lawyers and how you may want to retain a top Connecticut divorce lawyer yourself to consult on your criminal case).

But here’s the trick to quickly extinguishing the fire of parental alienation in Connecticut domestic violence arrest cases….if there are ANY allegations of child abuse or neglect, or if the Criminal Protective Order extends to your children, have your Connecticut criminal lawyer move for the appointment of a CRIMINAL GAL AT THE ARRAIGNMENT.

It’s automatic. The Practice Books give the arraignment judge ZERO discretion to say no or to kick the can down the road to the next court date. Practice Book 44-20:

In any criminal proceeding involving an abused or neglected minor child, a guardian ad litem shall be appointed.

Here’s what usually happens. The State’s Attorney takes no position and usually has no objection (just give them the heads up in advance). The Family Relations Officer typically does not get to weigh in on the motion. And the victim, domestic violence victim advocate, or the victim’s attorney is usually caught off guard.

Are Two Different GALs Really Necessary?

Yes. Here’s why: many family court GALs have little or no experience with the criminal court process. Of course, these GALs—many of whom are licensed attorneys—can speak to the domestic violence court on what’s in the best interest of the child. But if they do not understand the mechanics of domestic violence court, such as the terminology, diversionary programs, conditional plea options, and motion practice, then they are doing you and your client a major disservice. A skilled criminal GAL may need to file motions in criminal court relating to supervision and modification of an overly restrictive protective order. If they don’t know what they’re doing, if they don’t know that they must schedule appointments with the Family Relations Officers, if they don’t know the standing chambers orders of the presiding Domestic Violence judge, then your client will surely be at a disadvantage. So be sure to request an experienced Connecticut Practice Book 44-20 GAL in your criminal case that appears regularly in the criminal courts and can navigate contested supervision and safety issues, efficiently and effectively.

Finally, know that Practice Book 44-20 allows you to appoint a Family Relations Officer to serve as the GAL, which can sometimes be the right strategy, depending on the facts of your case, the courthouse you’re in, and the Family Relations Officer handling your case. But don’t go this route without first speaking with a top Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury or Bridgeport Connecticut domestic violence court criminal attorney

Contact a Connecticut Domestic Violence Criminal Lawyer for More Info on Criminal GALs

As any top Connecticut family or criminal lawyer will tell you, criminal domestic violence court can be a snake pit of protective orders, AIC counseling, and theatrics by family court lawyers who are trying to take advantage of an arrest. So if your or your client’s minor children are pulled into domestic violence court, you may want to strike back and avail yourself of Practice Book 44-20 by moving immediately for the appointment of a criminal GAL. The team of criminal lawyers at the Mark Sherman Law Firm can assist you in getting this done, and can also advise you on the various GAL fee structures the criminal courts permit under a 44-20 motion. So call us today at (203) 358-4700 to learn more about criminal GALs and other strategies for fighting a Connecticut domestic violence crime.