Category Archives: Child Custody

Can a Judge Order Joint Family Therapy?

Divorce is never easy, as this recent question posted on Avvo demonstrates:

My teenage child has severe behavioral problems due to our divorce and now wants to move in with the other parent, who does not accept that anything is wrong. Can I request the judge to order family therapy before such a change happens?

I have asked the other parent about having post-divorce counseling for the two of us, but he disagrees and says the child is fine and that does not understand why the child should have any problem since the divorce is between the parents. As the custodial parent, I am the one getting all the anger from the child for the break up, while the child is a love-starved puppy when visiting the other parent because of fear the father will “divorce” the child as well. My only option is if the judge orders family therapy to address the teenager’s issues. Can a family court judge mandate family therapy for us, and can I file a motion requesting it?

Yes is the answer to both halves of this question. The woman should request a GAL in order to support her, and consult a local attorney before beginning the process.

When Is the Guardian ad Litem Required to Be Present?

A good question on Avvo from a mother going through the custody process:

Does the appointed Guardian ad Litem need to be present at the meeting with family relations at which they will be sharing their recommendations? I don’t have the money to pay the GAL and my current attorney. Can the meeting take place with the father of my children and me? Why does the GAL need to be present if he is only reading the report and we are supposed to reserve our comments for court?

Simply put, if it could affect the children, the GAL has a right to be involved. What the mother could do in this situation is see if the GAL is willing not to show up. If she tells the GAL they are close to an agreement, especially both parents, then the GAL might be willing to skip the meeting and just read the report later. If there is any two-way discussion involved at this meeting, however, then the mother is likely out of luck.

What Can You Do When the Other Parent Stops Communicating About Your Child?

A father asks on Avvo about resolving a communications issue with his ex-wife:

My ex-wife of six years has not been communicating with me about our son, who is 14. I have tried every avenue to reach her, with no response. My son, with whom I’ve had a great relationship, is suddenly acting differently and won’t talk to me. I moved to Florida last year to be closer to my gravely ill mother, and it is important for [me to receive] those updates. My ex-wife leaves my son home with his grandmother, who lives there and is now diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. There seems to me to be a breach of a parenting plan. (She has physical custody, but we have shared legal custody.) I have no news on my son’s health, school, or emotional well-being. What can I do?

Simple answer to a tough situation for the father in the above scenario: He needs to retain an attorney and exercise his legal right to access and order that he be communicated with. It sounds like he has no other choice.

What Can Be Done When One Parent Does Not Follow the Parenting Plan?

A divorced woman posted on Avvo recently:

My ex-husband is trying to have my daughter go out of state with his girlfriend’s mom and pick her up the next day so that his girlfriend can go to the dentist. According to the parenting plan, if a parent requires child care by a person who does not reside in the home for a period to last longer than four hours, then they have to offer the other parent the opportunity to parent the child during that time. What can I do legally? Can I involve the police if this person takes my child? He is also refusing to give me any contact information for this person.

I responded to the woman that I would certainly memorialize these concerns via e-mail prior to the ex-husband’s actions – especially the lack of contact information and the leaving the state. She should call the police if she has specific concerns about this person (i.e., violent history or sexual offender). Otherwise, I suggested threatening a contempt motion and making good on your threat. (And checking in with an attorney in her area as to the specifics, especially as a contempt finding would gain her fees paid.)

What Can Be Done When Social Workers or a Guardian ad Litem Are “Not Doing Their Jobs”?

A distraught grandmother recently asked on Avvo where to turn when allegations of abuse are not being considered in a custody case:

My grandchildren are going through a custody case with the Division of Child, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and a Guardian ad Litem involved. Neither are doing their job. I am fearful of where my grandchildren are. No one wants to listen to crucial facts that are important to the well-being of my grandchildren. I have tried to contact DCYF myself and have spoken to the GAL. The GAL feels that the father’s attempted suicides, and physical and emotional abuse, as well as his drug abuse and past criminal record, have no bearings on the case. How can you erase seven years in three months? The new wife took food out of the trash and shoved it in my three-year-old’s mouth and forced it down her throat. Shoes have been thrown at the back of my four-year-old’s head. The four-year-old has diabetes and [the condition is worsening due to dietary issues]…

This woman does have a number of options.

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