At last night's seminar a Law Guardian, now renamed the Attorney For The Child, spoke about the things that parents should and should not do when in the middle of a contested custody case. She gave us her list of things that parents do that frustrate the process and make it more difficult to effectively do her job.
1. The law is that the courts decide custody of children under 18. The reality is that children who are in their mid to late teens are going to tell the LG where they want to live and why.
2. The LG is going to meet with both parents and hear what everybody has to say. The LG is going to meet with the children and hear what they have to say. The LG will let the children know that the child is their client and is entitled to confidentiality and the right to contact the LG if there is a problem in the home with either parent.
3. Most chlidren are going to tell the LG the truth. While no child wants to get either parent in trouble, the truth will usually come out and if not the LG can usually discern when the children are protecting a parent.
4. The LG and the Judge do not want the case discussed with the children or in front of the children. Parents who do that run the risk that the Judge thinks that the parent is trying to alienate the children from the other parent. Children hear everything. They hear their parents arguing, they hear their parents on the phone with their attorney, family and friends. The LG asks that those conversations take place when the children are not around.
5. The LG does not want either parent to ask the children with which parent they want to live. The LG views the children as the innocent victims of their parents' divorce and that the stress is hard enough without having to directly tell their parent their preferences.
6. The LG does not want either parent attempting to prevent the children from contacting THEIR attorney.
7. The LG does not want the children to be messengers and couriers of letters, bills and checks between the parents. Don't tell the children how much you pay the other parent for them or for the household.
These are some of the complaints the LG typically has with parents. I doubt that there are many divorce cases where one parent or both is not doing some of the things on the list. It is very hard for one parent to watch the other parent break the rules/guidelines without feeling the need to respond or retaliate. Afterall, custody is one of the most important and sensitive issues in any contested divorce case. However, if you know the guidelines in advance and the other parent is putting the children in the middle, you should report this to your lawyer and the LG. Let the professionals deal directly with the problem or if necessary get the judge involved.
If you are facing or in the middle of a contested custody case, please call my office so I can help you with my many years of experience solely handlingdivorce cases.