I have been divorced for thirteen years. We have a seventeen year old daughter and a fourteen year old son. Both of our children have had a considerable drop in their school grades through the past four years. In fact, my daughter has recently been caught by police with alchohol, cigarettes, and pot!
Mom does not want to deal with it. I want to have a gaurdian ad litem involved . How can I do this?
I am also concerned of the new stepfather’s police history. Mom implies that he has a history of sexual misconduct, but that he is better now. Any advice as to how I can get this information and what I should do to deal with this problem once I have it?
Only an attorney in your jurisdiction can provide you with an accurate analysis of your chances of prevailing on a motion to modify residential custody, but I can make a few general observations.
It certainly appears that you have some objective cause for concern as it relates to your children’s current living situation, particularly in light of their stepfather’s criminal background and their poor grades.
With respect to your children’s stepfather, if he is a sexual offender he should be included in databases around the country that you can obtain access to for free via the internet. You can also hire a private investigator to obtain information for you.
With respect to grades, get involved! Talk to the school. If your are not already, you should be an active participant in all parent/teacher conferences and should be vigilant of your children’s studies and demanding of information from the school, even if you are not the custodial parent. Do not rely on your children’s mom to do the work for you.
If your research into the stepfather’s background gives you continued concern and you have done all you can to be involved and active in your children’s educational development, you can file a motion to modify your current custody plan. You can request a guardian ad litem (often referred to as a "GAL"), an attorney who represents your children, at the same time you file your motion to change custody.
Keep in mind the following about GALs: GALs cost money, just like your own attorney. GALs don’t have to agree with what your children want to do when making a recommendation to the Court. GALs are attorneys; they are not trained in psychology or child development.
In addition to (or perhaps instead of) a GAL, you may want to consider a counselor. Your daughter is obviously having a tough time of it; she may need someone who is trained to work with children in crisis to assist her. Your son may benefit as well. The counselor may be able to provide you with more constructive feedback about your children’s needs than anyone else.
In closing, remember that presenting mom’s inaction in this case is only half the battle. The other half is presenting your pattern of involvement and plan for action.
Jill Best is the Litigation Manager for the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. office in Overland Park, Kansas. She practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. She is licensed in the state of Missouri, the state of Kansas, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the U.S. District Court of Kansas and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Ms. Best is a frequent guest on Dads Divorce Live and has presented at numerous family law seminars for the public and fellow attorneys.