How should I deal with an unfair guardian?

Question: I am in need of help getting to see my kids! It has been almost 4 months since I have seen them.

My ex and I have a parenting plan where I had the kids Monday and Tuesday and every other weekend, which was working great until the guardian stepped in. I will admit since the guardian stepped in I have not been a saint but she has been working against me the whole time and I feel worn down.

Now I can’t even see my kids supervised. What am I doing wrong? What can I do?

Answer:

I think by your admission that you “have not been a saint” you know the most important part of the answer to this question already – you must cooperate with the guardian. Guardians have considerable power in court, and while we like to think the judge presiding over your case will make an independent ruling after hearing, viewing and considering all of the evidence, in reality judges defer to guardians’ recommendations. Therefore, it is imperative to have the guardian on your side or, if not “for you” as the custodial parent, at least not against you.

If you are concerned about the weight of the guardian’s recommendation, you might consider a custody evaluation with a trained psychologist. This may be a court-ordered evaluation, in which case you will need to file a motion and argue your reasons and the legal basis for the evaluation in court, or a voluntary evaluation of either you or you, your spouse and your children, the admissibility of which depends on whether you and/or your attorney use the evaluator as an expert, the rules of evidence in your jurisdiction and the evaluator’s credentials, among other things. These evaluations can be costly but helpful, as they tend to put the participants through a battery of well-recognized tests designed to analyze parenting abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Consult your attorney or an experienced family law attorney in your area to find out which psychologists near you conduct these evaluations for court purposes. A recognized name, someone who has testified before your judge preferably, will help your cause greatly. I have used these evaluations to undercut what guardians, who are usually not trained and cannot devote sufficient time to a case due to a high client load, think is “best” for children.

If you are concerned about the quality of your parenting time and/or whether the guardian will accurately report what you did, document, document, document. Keep a journal for every parenting time day. Be specific – What did you do? When? How did your children behave? Who was present? Did the children eat? Did anyone fight (the children, you and your spouse, etc.)? This information will help refresh your memory and prepare your attorney if you must recount events in court. Be professional and precise, as your journal could be admissible in court.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Missouri. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in custody cases do. Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Missouri.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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