They are in the midst of a controversial divorce in which the custody of our four children, aged between 7 and 17, is among the problems. My lawyer suggested we try mediation – we did it without success. My wife has refused to accept a program and wants to continue working week after week, sharing our children as you see fit (what is most convenient for you regardless of the needs of our children or my business travel program). He says the weekly program every Sunday evening.
When we first went to court to ask for a parenting plan, the judge decided not to place an order and instead appointed a guardian ad litem. I'm meeting with the warden in two weeks. My lawyer wants to spend several hours with me before the guardian's meeting. Lately I took some time off work and I can not afford to take more time. I really can not understand why I have to meet him before the guardians meet if I do not have to do the same thing before the mediation. Has the mediation been no longer important? This is just an interview.
Your lawyer is right here. You should not enter the LAG interview – and make no mistakes, it's an interview – unprepared.
Mediation is a confidential process that you and your wife have entered into voluntarily. Your lawyers were by your side and could kick you under the table if necessary. The idea with mediation is to reach an agreement with which everyone can live together. The mediator will not judge you and will never tell the judge what you or your wife have offered or said during the sessions.
An ad litem guardian is, in essence, the guardian of the court. That person will meet with you and take detailed notes on everything you say. The LAG will then do the same when it meets your wife, your children and will talk with collateral, such as teachers, coaches, doctors and family friends of your children. All the information contained in these LAG notes will be summarized and included in a LAG report filed with the court. If a parenting agreement can not be reached, the judge who decides the problem will read the report, either during an additional movement session or in connection with a trial.
Presumably your lawyer has had many clients undergoing an interview with the LAG and can tell you what to expect, the kind of things to avoid saying and the kind of information that would be most useful to show the LAG, and ultimately the judge, which parent is better able to parent the children and why. Meet with your lawyer in advance. If you are really concerned about the risk to your work by taking more free time, ask your lawyer to meet a few nights, before work or during a weekend. You could be pleasantly surprised.
Wendy O. Hickey has been involved since 1994 and since 2003 she has been a lawyer who focuses her practice on national and international family law. Any legal advice in this column is of a general nature and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.