Litigation Support for Clients
You Cannot Build a Strong Custody Case Without a Strong Client
Emotions are intense for clients in custody cases. The fear of losing parenting time with one’s children, the mistrust between the parents, the insecure feeling of having to “impress” the Guardian ad Litem, and the intimidation of facing a judge in a courtroom, among other things, can be incredibly threatening and overwhelming for many clients.
Everybody reacts differently. Even the best parents lose their good sense during a custody dispute. Some people retreat and have a hard time articulating, or even recognizing their strengths. Others demand unreasonable results. A “mama or papa bear” may turn into a grizzly bear. Your client’s behaviors, reactions and responses become big pieces of the custody puzzle since the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge take note of everything that affects the best interests of the children.
As a Custody Litigation Consultant, I assist attorneys with client management and support, client preparation and client accountability. The foundation for a strong custody case starts with a strong client.
My mission as a Custody Litigation Consultant is to help your clients present the best of themselves to the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge, no matter what the litigation brings. Especially in high conflict cases, this can be a real learning process and challenge. I support clients in moving forward in the litigation with integrity, positivity and emotional strength. I also help clients develop and maintain realistic expectations so that they can identify achievable goals, and take productive positive steps toward those goals. I believe that what is in the best interests of the children should align with what is in the best interests of their parents. The goal is to find that delicate balance for your clients, so that the puzzle pieces will fit together comfortably.
- Prepare for the Guardian ad Litem meeting and home visit. Assist with responding to Guardian ad Litem questionnaires, and gathering relevant e-mails, texts, pictures, school and medical records, and other evidence to submit to the Guardian ad Litem.
- Help clients articulate their custody goals, and effectively communicate and advocate their case to the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge.
- Demystify the process. This can be as simple as explaining the Guardian ad Litem procedures, or as complex as taking the client to observe a custody trial.
- Assist clients with understanding what the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge will likely consider in determining the best interests of their children, and why. Explain, from the Guardian ad Litem’s perspective, how the client’s negative (or positive) conduct affects his/her chances for a favorable custody decision.
- Work with clients to recognize and build upon their parenting strengths, while minimizing their weaknesses.
- Keep the client’s focus on the children, rather than on how they are personally affected by the litigation.
- Steer clients away from unproductive negativity that often overtakes them in custody disputes. Focusing on making the other party bad/wrong usually is not a productive strategy.
- Support clients in navigating differences in parenting styles, learning to accept those differences in a positive manner, and minimizing conflict.
- Manage expectations.
- Make recommendations for therapy, classes or other support services to get the client through the difficulties involved in the litigation.
- Preparation for depositions, hearings and trial.
- Assistance with weighing the various settlement options.
- Value Integrity in Parenting. No parent is perfect, even in the best of circumstances. During the trying times of a custody battle, parenting can be especially challenging. Remaining calm and reasonable, exercising good discretion, and using good parental wisdom during litigation always wins points with the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge.
- Maintain Positivity. A positive spin is always easier for the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge to accept, than the continuous bombardment of trash against the other party. More importantly, the negativity engendered by ugly custody disputes not only permanently scars the co-parenting relationship after the case is over, but it, unfortunately, always trickles down to the children.
- Keep Moving Forward. It is in the children’s best interests for their parents to keep moving forward to a better tomorrow, rather than wallow in the pain of the custody battle.
- Spotlight and maximize the client’s strengths, while minimizing weaknesses. But, also recognize the opposing party’s strengths. They have them! Minimize their strengths, and the unpleasant harping on their weaknesses by outweighing them with positive examples of how the best interests of the children are best served by your client.
- Always focus on the best interests of the children.
- Armed with objective feedback and knowledge from the viewpoint of a Guardian ad Litem and family law veteran of almost 30 years, clients get an additional perspective as to how they are perceived in their custody case, and what they can do to improve their chances of a favorable custody ruling.
- What the client does to strengthen his/her custody case will also inure to the benefit of their relationships with their children, and with the co-parent after the litigation is over.
- It is important that the client is supported in remaining focused on the best interests of the children no matter how difficult or frustrating the litigation becomes. A client’s responses to the opposing party’s litigation tactics often speak loudly to the Guardian ad Litem and the Judge. For example, handling an opposing party’s aggressive litigation stance with grace, strength and dignity is generally an indication of how one would handle difficult custody situations after the litigation is over. Practice and accountability builds habits which will bode well for the client, not only during the litigation, but also thereafter.
- Reduces attorney’s fees and litigation costs.
- Support in recognizing and minimizing the impact of the litigation on the children. No parent wants or intends for the children to be impacted. Too many, however, do not recognize their own role in creating tensions or bad situations for their children. And, unfortunately, too many don’t even realize that the children have been negatively impacted until it’s too late.
- Clients are empowered to take an active role in deciding the outcome of their custody case.
- Positive recommendations and support to keep clients accountable.
After almost 30 years of experience as a Guardian ad Litem and litigating in custody cases, I have gained an in depth and unique perspective. I understand what the Guardian ad Litem and/or the judge expect in custody cases.
My years of experience have also primed me to understand the anger, fear, intimidation and other intense emotions that clients experience when going through an ugly custody battle. Some people are immobilized or get overly-defensive, and many act out in unproductive and damaging ways. I have compassion and empathy for people going through hard times in custody disputes. I, however, do not believe in beating around the bush, or telling them only what they want to hear. Instead, I offer objective, straightforward and clear feedback to clients as to how their behaviors, attitudes and actions affect their case, and I support them in what they need to do to strengthen and build their custody cases.
I believe that it is possible for children involved in custody battles, and their parents, to have happy endings.