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AlmostFreeLegal
AlmostFreeLegal, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 105
Experience:  Attorney with 20 years of experience and several legal publication credits.
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I am in the midst of a primary physical custody proceeding.

Customer Question

I am in the midst of a primary physical custody proceeding. My 8 year old son's dad has moved to Florida with his wife and other 5 children. He has asked the court to appoint a GAL. I am against a GAL to determine my son's best interest. Will I seem uncooperative? Is it a bad move to not accept the GAL?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  AlmostFreeLegal replied 1 year ago.

There is usually no reason to oppose a GAL unless the issue is the cost of having one. Also, a GAL does not get to make the decision of what is in your child's best interests, that decision is still up to the judge. The purpose of the GAL is to represent what is in your child's best interests rather than what is wanted by you or your child's father. Rather than putting your efforts into opposing having a GAL appointed (which is probably going to happen anyway), I would suggest putting your energy into demonstrating to the GAL why it is in your son's best interests to be with you. Also, opposing the GAL could make it appear that you have something to hide. If your argument is that the father is just trying to make you run out of money, then one approach would be to tell the judge you don't object to a GAL as long as the father is the one who pays for it. You could argue that you believe a GAL is unnecessary and that he is requesting one solely to make you unable to afford to go all the way through a custody fight, but that you certainly have no objection to having one if the father will pay for the entire cost. That way you are making it clear that you have nothing to hide and that your only objection is due to financial issues. Good luck to you, and if you have additional questions please let us know.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Do you have experience with custody cases? Could you tell me what to expect when a GAL visits. My son has two good loving homes albeit different parental lifestyles. I'm afraid of being judged by what society considers "acceptable". His father has a new expensive home in Florida with a pool. He has a wife, 2 step daughters older than my son, and 2 sons with his wife close to my son's age. There life is picture perfect. But, he has a full-time job and travels overnights often, which means my son would be mostly raised by his stepmom. We have shared a 50/50 non court ordered arrangement in Maine since he was born. I have a large old new englander at which I run a rooming house. Right now, I have 5 european college students renting rooms. My boyfriend and I ride motorcycles and he owns a tattoo shop. We are society's "rough n tough". I also have a 15 year old son in the home and my boyfriend has a 12 year old daughter whom he has full custody of. Our home is clean but we are in the midst of lots of upgrades ... a new roof, a patio, landscaping... I am so worried about being "judged". I know my son is happy here and looking forward to third grade in the school he has knows since Kindergarten and with the friends/teachers he knows. But his father is stubborn and very good at manipulating. Any advice please?

Expert:  AlmostFreeLegal replied 1 year ago.
The things to emphasize will be that your son is happy and doing well in his current school, and that he has lived his entire life in Maine. To relocate him to Florida would be extremely disruptive, even if the home he was moving to was nice. You want to emphasize the stability of your home and how happy your child is in the current environment. Also, the schools in Maine are better than the schools in Florida, so he can receive a better education by staying with you. I believe the crime rate in Florida is much higher than in Maine also, although I have not looked up that information to confirm that fact. The father is the one who moved away, not you. If his son was that important to him, he would not have moved such a long distance away. And as you commented, changing custody to him actually means that your son would be raised by his stepmother, which could not possibly be as good as being raised by his own biological mother.

You have not said whether or not you have an attorney, but if you do not then I would encourage you to get one right away. A custody fight is not something to handle on your own. I have seen people try to represent themselves and lose cases that they would have won if they'd had even just some basic legal representation. Check around in the community where the case will go to trial, and find an attorney that is known to have a successful track record with custody cases.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I met with a lawyer today regarding my custody case. He told me I have already made mistakes ... allowing my son to visit his father in Florida, creating the moving "bond" ... and that the GAL he suggested is not a good GAL for my case. He also wants a $3000 retainer. I have no means for a lawyer and now I"m just scared I will lose. He also stated that if I did lose, child support would end and I might end up paying a small amount of child support even tho I make nothing compared to him. He said I had good points as far as my son being stable here but it is a rocky road without a lawyer. Anything bad will be dug up and my live-in boyfriend has a "past".


 


I have decided that I should throw in the flag and move to Florida as my ex initially suggested so that a 50/50 split can continue. There are all kinds of stressful, financial and family issues surrounding this, including my 15 year old son who does not want to move and will stay behind with his dad to finish high school but I cannot risk losing my little boy.


 


Now that an interim order has already been filed and a GAL appointed (just today) what do I do if I want to re-address my relocation??? HELP

Expert:  AlmostFreeLegal replied 1 year ago.
I have to question whether it is cheaper to move to Florida than it would be to hire a lawyer. However, if you have decided that making that move is in your best interests, you may want to make a settlement offer to your ex that you will move there in exchange for keeping the 50/50 split. I would try to use it as a negotiating tool rather than just doing it to see if it helps the situation. And if he agrees to it, then the custody case could simply be dismissed and there would be no need for a GAL to take any action. Since this was his idea in the first place, perhaps he would still be willing to make that agreement.

My recommendation would be that you find the funds to hire a lawyer and fight for your rights. However, if that is not an option, then negotiating a resolution that keeps your child with you is certainly an understandable approach. But make sure you get him to agree in writing that he will drop the petition to modify custody if you move to Florida.

Good luck to you. This is not the direction I expected you to go with this, but I understand your decision and I hope it works out well for you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your time and advice. I appreciate it.


 


I am the Plaintiff. I started the proceedings for primary residence when I felt threatened that he would leave to Florida with our son.


 


He originally offered me $10,000 to move but fell short when it came time to produce the monies.


 


I have texted him that I wish to discontinue the proceedings and go along with his initial offer and have asked him to call. This was yesterday.


 


Do I do something now? Do I contact the magistrate? Or the GAL?

Expert:  AlmostFreeLegal replied 1 year ago.
Well, I'd wait until you see whether you have an agreement with him first. Since you are the plaintiff, you can dismiss your petition at any time. However, it sounds like he probably filed a counter-petition to change custody, which means that even if you dismiss your petition the case would keep going on his petition.

To make sure neither of you have anything further pending with the court, you would want to file a Joint Stipulation for Dismissal or a Joint Motion to Dismiss. Both of you sign it notifying the court that you both want the case dismissed. The judge will then sign an order dismissing the case. But you need to make sure the father signs this motion with you, because it sounds like he filed his own custody petition. You don't want to dismiss your claim unless his is getting dismissed too.

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