In Part I of How To Impress The Guardian Ad Litem, I will be discussing the initial meeting. Which, as everything does in the court system, costs some big bucks.
The cost of the guardian ad litem probably varies depending on the court and the guardian that has been assigned to your case. The judge ordered both W. and I to pay $250 to our guardian within seven days of our last court date. (For the mathematically challenged, that means the money was due by the fourteenth of April.) This money will work as a retainer, much like when you pay a lawyer. It is important to be prompt in everything while you are in the court system.
As I've mentioned before, you need to always be respectful to your guardian ad litem. In fact, you should be respectful of everyone else when you're around your guardian. This means no bashing your ex. It is one thing to state the facts, but bashing the father of your child(ren) is disrespectful to both your ex and your child(ren). The guardian will not look upon this lightly. Even though my daughter is only eighteen months old, I requested that the guardian and I first meet without Jellybean's presence so that she would not have to hear anything negative about her father. This is something that the guardians are trained to look for specifically, so we agreed to meet at her office without Jellybean, and she thought that it was great that I would think of that.
During our first meeting, I filled out several forms with all of my information: past drug use, alcohol use, if I smoke cigarettes, who is living in my household, health concerns, etc. I had to fill out the same information about W., and I also had to fill out another form about Jellybean.
The guardian will then ask you what your concerns are and why you are fighting for whatever it is you are fighting for--in my case, it is restricted visitation under supervision based on W.'s drug/alcohol abuse and psychological instability. This is your chance to be heard, so don't blow it. I told her the facts about the situation. I told her that W. has admitted that he cannot handle taking care of her on his own, that he has never taken her to the doctor or given her a bath, that he has never gotten up with her in the middle of the night. I told her about all the times I asked him to sit with her so I could shower or use the bathroom and he left her in the pack-n-play to cry by herself.
What you don't want to do, is go into detail about how things didn't work out between you two. She doesn't want to know that he cheated on you with your best friend on your birthday or that you smashed his Xbox to pieces or anything related to that matter. Those types of issues are between you and your ex, and have nothing to do with the well-being of the child. So, please, don't ramble on like a crazy lady and show just how hurt and broken he left you. This will make you look like a scorned woman who was left so hurt by an ex that you are now being vengeful and using your child to hurt him. (And if that is what you are doing, then shame on you.)
Another important piece to this puzzle are your witnesses. Do not skimp on this part, it is very important. My guardian requested up to four witnesses who would have any information related to my case. I decided not to use any family members as witnesses. Your family will side up with you on anything and everyone knows that. I chose a mixture of business associates, friends and neighbors.
My first witness is my boss. She has been my employer for four years and can attest to the fact that I hold down a steady job, am responsible, and am always looking out for my daughter. She can also attest that any time Jellybean has had a doctor appointment or has been sick, I have been the one to call off work to take care of her.
My second witness is a woman that I babysit for. I have babysat her five children for the past two to three years. She has known be to be reliable and trusts me to take care of her children. She can attest that any time I have babysat for her since the birth of my daughter, I have had to bring her with me because her dad would not watch her. Even during overnight stays.
My third witness is my neighbor. She and her family have been our friends/neighbors since we moved into the area two years ago. She was more so W.'s friend in the beginning, as he got to know everyone better than I did. W. has even spoken with her a little bit about the abuse he received from his parents as a child. After our daughter was born and as time went on, she was there to witness W.'s lack of interest in Jellybean, the late nights out, and the purposely not coming home until her bedtime.
My fourth and final witness is a good friend of mine. She has been my friend for the past two or three years and was one of the few people with whom I shared my problems through a difficult time. She can attest to the fact that, even when W. and I were together, Jellybean came with my everywhere because he would not stay home with her.
These are the kinds of witnesses that you will want to have in your case. Make sure you ask each individual for their permission before submitting their information to your guardian. The guardian told me that she will mail letters out to each of them to let them know that whatever they say is not confidential and will ultimately be shared with each party. Sometimes people don't have the heart to tell you that they don't want to be involved--so instead of calling the witnesses, she gives them a no-pressure way to back out of the situation by asking them to contact her at their convenience.
After speaking with her for about an hour, she told me that our next step was for her to see how Jellybean interacts with each parent and she will also need to inspect each home.
Introduction to How To Impress The Guardian Ad Litem
Part II: Preparing For The Home Inspection
Part III: The Home Inspection & Parent/Child Interaction
Part IV: Consulting The Witnesses
Part V: Drug Testing
Part VI: Do What The Guardian Tells You