Don’t commit the cardinal sin in Family Court. No one likes to be told what to do. No one likes to be called stupid. Even if they make your life hell, you are going to have to try to work with your Court Authority. Showing hostility toward them, swearing at them, calling them names is like sending a gold plated invitation to them to make your life hell.
There is a lawyer I know who had a great deal of difficulty in court because she is a lawyer and she wanted to tell them what to do, but in her own custody trial she was not in the role of lawyer, she was in the role of Mom. Know your place.
Whether you like these people or despise them, they hold the answer to what you want and you need to keep that in mind and act accordingly. You don’t have to be a butt kisser, but you should listen to what they are saying because you will get some clues to make your life easier if you pay attention. Suppose your boss said, “sorry, mandatory overtime this weekend. You’ll have to miss little Johnnie’s play date.” Would you go ballistic, swear, scream, cry, insult, belittle? I’m assuming not, at least not if you want to keep your job. Well in the family court, you want the job of parent without a probation period. Quite simply you want your children and you want to move forward in life without court watch dogs. How best to make them go away? Make them believe that they succeeded, that they helped you. Oh, it may be a bunch of BS, you helped yourself, but what is the harm in letting them feel good about what they have done so that they smile and let you go on your merry way WITHOUT A CHAPERON??? Think about it.
I always recommend that when people have to meet with their court authority (Parenting Consultant, Parenting Time Expediter, Guardian Ad Item) that they behave the same way they would in a job interview. Usually in a job interview you can pull it together and present your best self. You can also hold back any emotional outburst until you have made it back to your car. This is important with Court Authorities, too. Practice in advance, if you can with someone like me or with a friend. Have them play the role of PC who is repeating all kinds of falsehoods your ex has told them. If they make you upset, work with your friend for a better response to use.
If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. We’ve all heard that, right? Well, smiling and nodding can go a long way in getting a Parenting Consultant or other court authority off your back. I have heard numerous people complain about how they want their PC or GAL to go away and never return. The problem is that this doesn’t seem logical because those same people constantly call their PC or GAL, not just for assistance with a dispute, but to complain and complain and complain about their ex. What they think the Court Authority can do for them, I have no idea. It amazes me how much people think these case workers have more power than they do. Mostly, these court authorities can only make insubstantial decisions. They cannot decide anything involving child support or custody. They can’t even make any major changes to an existing order. They can make recommendations. That is all. Many people believe that the judge knows about all of these meetings people have with a PC and all of the disputes that have been discussed in face to face meetings. Guess what? The judge knows nothing until a motion is filed. Even then someone has to present it to the judge for him/her to issue a court order. To invite them into your world to turn it even more upside down than it is is just ridiculous. Steer clear of these people as much as possible. If your ex is going to be difficult, they are going to be difficult no matter what. Plus, your ex will learn how to best turn these things around on you, if they aren’t already doing so now.
I am not one to smile and nod in life. Trust me. I am not. I speak my mind. I do suggest in the case of a PC to go along as much as possible. That is a different case. With Family Court, you need to practice a little self preservation and what you and your child need is for some peace. That usually doesn’t happen until Family Court is gone from your lives. If you can bring that about sooner, rather than later, you will be able to move on and enjoy your life. To me, that should be the ultimate goal.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some helpful PCs or GALs, but so far I haven’t heard of them. If you had needed a parenting assistant in life then you’d have hired a live in nanny! You do not need a helper to be a parent. Had your ex died, for example, the county wouldn’t have brought a parade of replacement dads/moms to your door to make sure your house had one now, would they? You wouldn’t have told yourself you couldn’t do it either, would you?
You can be an amazing parent. Single parenting is not that bad and there are some perks to it. It can be difficult, but so is parenting in general. What you really need to do is negotiate roles with the other parent if you can. A PC or GAL might sound like a good idea, the courts push them, thinking that if you have someone keeping an eye on you you’ll stay out of court. Some lawyers think they are good problem solvers, but my personal opinion is that they are not. Too many cooks spoil the broth, so to speak. In my trial, I equated it to that telephone game from grade school, you know, the one where you stand in a line and the first person is told a story to pass on to the next and by the time it gets to the end, the story has completely changed and important details are missing. That is what happens if you have these go betweens in court. The judge will hear the end of the story from one s who weren’t even present for the original story. When that happens expect chaos and nonsensical orders that have nothing to do with why you went to court in the first place!
If you have a court authority assigned to your case, keep their involvement to a minimum. If you are considering having one appointed, I recommend avoiding that at all costs. If you must, because the judge in your case wants you to have someone or your ex will not agree to not have one, a Parenting Time Expediter is the least invasive. They only deal with insubstantial visitation disputes, nothing major. A Parenting Consultant can decide all kinds of things from where the kids go to school or church to who can escort the kids to the doctor, etc. A Guardian is there to protect and represent the minor children so they will not have much concern about what you want if they don’t think it’s in the child’s best interest.
No matter what has happened in your case or is happening, just know that you can get through this. You can get past it. You can be a wonderful parent, no matter what. Believe in yourself and your abilities as a parent. Believe in your children to see through lies because they will. Remember, the ultimate judge of you as a parent will always be your child, so hold onto that and revisit some of the tips from a previous post I did about how to cope.