After serving as Guardian ad litem on hundreds of cases, I have identified several potential problem areas and tips to improve the custody situation for the children as follows:
1. Attend an in-person co-parenting course.
2. Use Our Family Wizard to communicate with the other parent. See OFW Guidelines on the home page categories section.
3. Enroll in individual therapy and/or a parenting course if needed. This will not be used against you in the investigation process. Anything to improve a parent’s mental health, coping strategies, and parenting is a positive for the child.
4. Do NOT introduce a new significant other to your child until the relationship is a committed, stable and solid one. Do NOT move in with a significant other or allow a significant other to move in with you and your child(ren) until the relationship is an intended permanent one and the relationship is committed, stable, solid and in the best interest of the child(ren).
5. Be an active parent: If you were not the more involved parent, take steps to educate yourself about your child. Navigate your child’s school website; e-mail the teacher; attend meet-the teacher day; attend all school meetings; become involved in field trips and volunteer events at school; help ensure your child finishes and turns in all homework; have structure and routine in the household (consistent with the other parent’s household); attend doctor/dentist appointments (or alternate these appointments with the other parent); contact coaches directly and become knowledgeable about all schedules involving your child.
6. Encourage and respect your child’s time with the other parent: Put your child’s needs first; do not let the child know that you are sad when he or she is not with you; do not interfere with the child’s time with the other parent by attending routine practices for the child or repeatedly calling or texting the child (or encouraging the child of the need to call or text you). Also encourage your child that you want him or her to have a positive relationship with the other parent. This can be done by putting photos of the other parent and child in the child’s room and by not speaking negatively about the other parent to him or her or to others (the child may overhear conversations with others).
7. Allow your child’s belonging to go back and forth between homes: but also respect the other parent who purchased the items and promptly return them to the originating household.
8. Follow Parent to Child Communication Guidelines: See Parent-to Child Communication Guidelines on the home page categories section.
9. Do NOT get your child involved in conflict or court litigation. Let the GAL explain in an age appropriate manner what is going on in court, as appropriate.
10. Use and remind yourself of tools learned in the co-parenting course. There are also videos, books and other resources which may be helpful if you find yourself having difficulties with co-parenting issues.
11. You may not always like the Guardian Ad Litem recommendations but they are being made in the best interest of the child. Do not assume bias but take the recommendations as a way to reflect on how you can take steps to better improve the situation for your child. You cannot control the other parent but you can do your part in lessening conflict for your child.
12. If you find yourself in a parental alienation situation or if your child is affected by the intense parental conflict, you should be aware that the longer this has occurred without intervention may equate with the length of time it takes to improve the situation. These are the worst cases and often take a lengthy investigation, monitoring and multiple referrals to make improvements for the child. Eventually, if improvements cannot be made, I often recommend a change in legal and physical custody to the non-offending parent.