Saturday, May 21, 2011

How To Impress The Guardian Ad Litem Part IV: Consulting The Witnesses

In Part I of this discussion, I pointed out that witnesses are an important piece to the puzzle.  Your guardian ad litem will probably request up to four witnesses who may be related to your case.  Do not skimp on this part, it is very important! 

I would advise you to not to list any family members as witnesses, unless they were present to witness a particular act of violence or something key to your case.  Otherwise, it would be best to compose a list of other people involved in your life, maybe babysitters, employers, neighbors and mutual acquaintances between you and your ex.  Make sure you ask each individual for their permission before submitting their information to the guardian.

The guardian ad litem sent letters to each of my witnesses 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.  She also sent letter to my babysitter, who provides full-time daycare for my daughter while I am at work. 

My first witness was 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 parent to call off work to take care of her.

My second witness was a woman that I babysit for. I have babysat her five children for the past two to three years. She has known me 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 in the neighborhood 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.

I noticed that my witnesses and the guardian had played phone tag for a few days before they were finally able to speak.  There came a moment when I began to worry that she wasn't going to gather all of the necessary information from them.  But she followed through and made sure to speak in depth with each of them.  She asked questions regarding what qualities they admire about me, what they think makes me a good custodial parent, my interaction with Jellybean, any known interaction between W. and Jellybean, how Jellybean is progressing for her age, any behavioral issues they have noticed and if they think the separation has affected Jellybean in any way. 

My babysitter also had the opportunity to speak with the guardian ad litem.  The questions that the guardian asked Babysitter were more directly related to Jellybean and her well being.  She made sure that Jellybean has been hitting her developmental marks for her age, that she is healthy, eats well and is well taken care of.  Also, to assure that Jellybean is healthy and well taken care of, the guardian was sure to speak with Jellybean's primary physician, something you should also be prepared for.

A great deal of your guardian's recommendation will depend on third-party statements, so the answers given by these witnesses are more valuable than the diamond ring you used to wear.

Introduction to How To Impress The Guardian Ad Litem
Part I: The Initial Meeting
Part II: Preparing For The Home Inspection
Part III: The Home Inspection & Parent/Child Interaction

Part V: Drug Testing
Part VI: Do What The Guardian Tells You

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