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  • August 02, 2022

    Guardian ad Litem Training for Family Violence Cases

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2021 established new requirements for guardians ad litem as it relates to domestic violence cases in family court. Debra Mancoske discusses recent GAL training in Brown County.

    Debra R. Mancoske

    I recently attended guardian ad litem (GAL) training in Brown County, sponsored by the Brown County family court judges and court commissioners.

    This was an extremely beneficial way for the guardians ad litem in Brown County to get a start on getting their required GAL CLE credits prior to accepting appointments, which include three hours on family violence issues.

    This type of program may benefit other counties as well. The court put together this four-hour CLE training, which included three hours of family violence training and an additional hour of general GAL training.

    Training: Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

    Amber Peterson, circuit court policy and procedures advisor at Wisconsin Supreme Court Office of Court Operations, was the featured presenter. Peterson put together a three-hour presentation on understanding domestic violence within the family. She made available to the GALs the handbook Domestic Abuse Guidebook for Wisconsin Guardians ad Litem. This handbook was put together by the joint project of the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse and End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

    The handbook includes a four-step approach to screening for abuse:

    • identify domestic abuse;

    • define the nature and context of abuse;

    • evaluate the implications of the abuse; and

    • make informed recommendations that account for domestic abuse.

    The presentation began with participant involvement with each GAL allotted a certain amount of money, specific places to go, and costs associated with decisions to leave a domestic abuse situation. It was a very powerful dynamic for participants to truly understand the difficult choices people must make when deciding to leave a violent situation.

    Debra Mancoske headshot Debra Mancoske, St. Louis University 1983, is a solo practitioner in Green Bay. Her practice has an emphasis in family, guardian ad litem, and juvenile and criminal law.

    Peterson also gave an overview of the multiple dynamics of family violence, including nonphysical and coercive control. Mental, emotional, and financial power and control are all elements of the family violence dynamic.

    Perspectives from the Bench

    An always extra-special addition to this presentation was a perspective from the bench. The family court judges and commissioners held a roundtable discussion of what they are looking for in a GAL recommendation. Each discussed the importance of providing specific information to the court that can be backed by witness testimony. The court is tasked with making the difficult decisions for families and benefits from as much information as possible to aid in the decision-making process.

    I would like to thank Judge Thomas G. Walsh for presiding over this CLE program. It is imperative that judges, court commissioners, and senior attorneys promote professionalism with each other.

    Near the conclusion of the presentation, the more experienced guardians ad litem provided a question and answer presentation to the group as a whole. The members had an opportunity to ask questions relating to complex issues that present themselves in this difficult area of law. All participants were able to gain knowledge form others who may have experience similar issues.

    Worth the Time

    This CLE program was touted by the attendees as extremely helpful. I have had other family law attorneys tell me they would like to see this type of training for all the members of the family law bar. I hope other counties can use this as a place to start when looking for local CLE opportunities.

    This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin Senior Lawyers Division Blog of Experience. Visit the State Bar Divisions page or the Senior Lawyers Division webpage to learn more about division membership.

    Guardian ad Litem Training and Resources

    Gain the knowledge necessary to accept GAL appointments with these resources from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE©:

    • GAL Training 2022 offers guidance from a panel of family court commissioners on what they expect from GALs. This webcast session will give you a deeper understanding of your role and provide you with what you need to manage expectations while fulfilling your duties. This session is available on dates beginning Oct. 18, 2022.

    • The Adult Guardian Ad Litem Training 2022 webcast seminar offers an overview of adult guardianship and protective placement process, reviews key cases and statutes, provides guidance on how to properly handle cases where mental health is an issue, and more. This session is available on dates beginning Nov. 11, 2022.

    • Dealing With Domestic Violence in Family & GAL Cases 2022 will help you identify situations in which there is potential family violence. You'll hear from a panel of GALs with experience working on cases where domestic violence disputes have played out. This CLE session recorded March 31, 2022, is currently available as an OnDemand seminar.

    • The Guardian ad Litem Handbook is a comprehensive guide that provides not only an overview, but details on representing adults and children, family court, juvenile court, adult guardianships, protective services and placement, the state Mental Health Act, and more.

    Find out more

    For additional resources and information on GAL representation, visit WisBar's Marketplace.





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    Senior Lawyers Division Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Michael May and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Senior Lawyers Division or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2022 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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