The recent killing of an Acton father makes it imperative that Maine’s attorney general and the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar form a task force to address the psychological and emotional travesty of our time: the high-conflict divorce of parents of minor-aged children.

I call upon the legal community to come clean about this: In Maine, high-conflict divorce summons dollar signs in the eyes of many attorneys. Guardians ad litem – who far too often have no clinical training and rely on their own intuitive theories of parental adequacy and child development and their law-school criminal trial mindsets, then hand their clients $16,000 invoices – are now legally held to higher ethical standards.

That legislation does nothing to address the unjust circumstance when the party with the deeper pockets continues to pay an attorney excessive fees to unjustly withhold, discredit, demean and ultimately disenfranchise the other parent. In many circumstances, disenfranchising either parent disenfranchises children because each parent-child relationship is contaminated by persistent hostility from the divorce, often for many years.

The legal community can exacerbate the adversarial elements of the minefield of hostility that a high-conflict divorce can be – or they can adopt ethical standards that do more than give lip service to a resolution that serves the “best interest of the child.”

The roots of this tragedy are probably almost impossible to disentangle: a father who took part in a court-ordered batterer’s intervention program in Sanford and died after being given primary child custody, and a mother diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of years of alleged abuse, now accused of murder. Let’s start with the actions of those paid to find a fair, non-hostile resolution – the legal system – and create a task force to see what might have been done differently.

Susan Cook