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  1. #1

    Default What to Present to the Guardian Ad Litem

    My question involves a child custody case from the State of: South Carolina

    My question is what information I should provide to my GAL. My son and I met with her during my visitation week. I brought all the case documents and gave the GAL my side of the case. In a nutshell it is this: My son is 6years old and for kindergarten he went to a school in his father's district. For the years ahead he was to attend a great magnet school that has a waiting list a mile long but my son has a guaranteed spot. At the temporary hearing I was unrepresented and the judge ordered my son to go back to his present public school and I will only have bi-weekly visitation(big bummer). He has been in and out of my son's live but I've always encouraged visitation, there was no paternity test, his name is not on the birth certificate, no prior former order of support, I just tried to do the right thing without the courts but as soon as I let him go, he gets an attorney and asks for sole custody and child support...

    During our meeting I got a good vibe from the GAL, like they could see exactly what the father is trying to do but I want to make sure I give the GAL everything needed so that hopefully this seemingly uphill battle might turn around, especially with school right around the corner. Oh and I do believe the op's attorney is stalling just so that my son will go ahead and start school. The temp hearing was May 8th, the order was not signed by the judge until on or around June 20th, the father has not met with the GAL and to my knowledge discovery hasnt started either (discovery is supposed to be a series of questions I'm supposed to answer under oath I think, and his attorney hasnt sent me anything) and school is starting August 22nd.

    I have gathered articles about the school and the curriculum and photos of our family together. People I would like her to interview are the principal of the school who was aware of my intentions of enrolling him prior to the onset of this case, a past neighbor who knows I lived alone with my son, and my sister since we planned on having our children attend school together since our kids are so close. The GAL mentioned meeting with my nephew there to see how they interact. I have chosen these people because he is alleging that he has had my son in his custody since he was 2 years old and thus made all decisions and knew nothing of me considering another school. Which is all untrue. Should I provide any proof that I have just in case he tries to lie to the GAL too? Is there anything else I'm missing...other than an attorney of course. He's primarily been doing a lot of lying and mudslinging and I dont want to give off that I'm trying to do the same. Thanks for the help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: What to Present to the Guardian Ad Litem

    We are not in a position to review and analyze your case or evidence. What you should do is retain a lawyer to advise and represent you.

  3. #3

    Default Re: What to Present to the Guardian Ad Litem

    At the temporary hearing I was unrepresented
    Ouch. In family law, where there are problematic situations over custody, this is almost always a mistake. Unlike parents, attorneys know EXACTLY which buttons to push, and which ones are useless, and thus when up against an attorney who knows the court, the judges, and the practices of the local courts, the results often resemble Robin Hood vs. the old blind one-armed guy with the shakes, which isn't good.

    He has been in and out of my son's live but I've always encouraged visitation, there was no paternity test, his name is not on the birth certificate, no prior former order of support, I just tried to do the right thing without the courts but as soon as I let him go, he gets an attorney and asks for sole custody and child support...
    It may seem nice to work outside the courts, but court orders are the ONLY way to protect your interest in your child, and they protect BOTH sides. We simply can't emphasize this enough. There really should have been establishment of paternity, a visitation order, and child support, right from the start, while YOU were still the child's primary caregiver. If dad was allowed to assume that role, he was placed in the perfect spot to be the one to step up and GET things formalized for him to be custodial parent and collect child support from you. That would indicate that you're going to have an incredible uphill battle against the status quo if it was established in dad's favor over the last school year, even WITH an attorney - and I cannot stress strongly enough that if dad is IN that enviable position, then you've got almost nothing in the way of leverage to work with here without getting a GOOD attorney who is intimately familiar with the court in question.

    The school issue is likely irrelevant. If your child was 16 or 17 and in advanced classes and had a chance to attend an Ivy League school, or a magnet program geared towards the child's interests and talents, that would be one thing. For kindergarten, the courts aren't likely to feel that school quality is anywhere near being an agenda item that would impact custody - at least nowhere near as important as the primary caregiver aspect. (If that was the case, then all custody battles would be won by the parent able to afford the best private school, and that's just NOT how it works.)

    The BIG issue is who has been the child's primary caregiver for the last year? You tell us that the child went to school in dad's district - so it sounds like the child was LIVING with dad during that time? Under whose roof did the child fall asleep, wake up, eat breakfast, take a bath? If you allowed the child to live with dad, and dad has been the parent providing the day to day care, THAT is what could swing this issue into dad getting custody, regardless of the school issue. Courts don't take children away from the parent who has been the child's primary custodian without MASSIVE and IMPORTANT reasons for doing so. What the courts want is for the child's life to be shaken up as little as possible, and only if absolutely necessary.

    Although dad apparently didn't bother to get up off his butt and formalize visitation or parental rights, if he has been allowed to ACT as the primary caregiver, and the child knows him as such, then unless he's somehow found not to BE the father, he has a better than average chance of getting the court to keep the status quo and order him to be the primary guardian. But he's simply NOT going to get SOLE custody unless you are suddenly convicted of a violent crime or a heinous crime against a child, found to be incompetent or unfit, etc. Fighting to get your parental rights outlined and formalized (so that they can later be enforced if there are problems) is the second place where an attorney will be priceless, even if you ultimately loose the battle over primary custody.

    But let's clarify exactly where and with whom the child has been LIVING, and then we can narrow down angles and possibilities.
    Catherine NeSmith
    Executive Director, Inc.

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