As you know, the Judge has appointed Attorney X as the Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) to represent the best interests of your children. Their phone number is 314-555-1234.The Judge has made no order at this time for the payment of Attorney X’s fees. I expect that such an order will be made relatively soon, and I anticipate that you and Opposing Party will be ordered to pay the fees equally. A final order at the end of the case may include a requirement that you and/or Opposing Party pay some additional fees to Attorney X. awarded to you, but we cannot even guess about whether that may happen or if it does what the amount will be. The Judge will assess those fees against you and Opposing Party in the proportions that he/she deems reasonable.
You should contact Attorney X and arrange a time to meet with them if you have not already done so. If you wish, I can be present at that meeting. Whether or not I am present is completely up to you. The primary reason that I would be present is to be of assistance to you. Attorney X will not be bothered at all if I accompany you. Their purpose is to be sure that the arrangements made for the children are in their best interest.
Attorney X will have access to everything that has been filed in court via casenet. We can discuss additional information that we wish to give to them. Generally, we will sign releases and provide additional information as they request.
I have set forth below some general guidelines to keep in mind when you meet or talk with Attorney X. Please review these carefully and contact me should you have any questions or concerns about their role or how you might best interact with them.
First and foremost, they are not your attorney and they are not necessarily your friend. Their job is to act for the children’s best interest in that capacity; they may convey some or all of what you say to Opposing Party and/or their attorney. It is entirely their choice whether or not to do so, and it is not appropriate for you to question them about whether or not they have or intend to pass on any specific information that you give them.
Despite this, it is essential that you be honest with Attorney X at all times. One of the quickest ways to alienate the Guardian is to be untruthful. That is certainly not in your interest, as the opinion of the Guardian is generally given careful consideration by the Judge in determining custody issues (including temporary custody).
Always be aware not only of what you say to Attorney X, but also your facial expression (if you are in his presence) and tone of voice. It is very important that you focus on the children, and not on Opposing Party unless your concern involves an impairment of their parenting.
You must be prepared to talk with Attorney X about your strengths and weaknesses as a parent, as well as those of Opposing Party. You must remember that all of you have good points and bad points.
You should also be able to discuss each child’s needs and how you expect them to change over the coming years. It is a sign that you are a good parent that you have thought about these issues and can discuss them intelligently.
When you are talking to Attorney X, make sure that you understand the question that they are asking then be sure that you answer that question. Let them guide the conversation when you first meet with them. We can talk and set up another meeting where it will be your turn to talk to them about those things that you think they should know. Do not volunteer information at the first meeting.
Try to be aware that Missouri law directs the Judge to make certain that each parent has significant contact with each parent and most judges interpret this to mean equal custody time with each parent. If you believe that less than 50% of the time with Opposing Party is in the best interests of the children, be prepared to present proof that Opposing Party’s parenting abilities are impaired. Bad partners are not always bad parents.
Be brief and direct.