Tonight’s post about the evils of custody battles was written by our Atlanta custody attorney, Dina Khismatulina.
This evening, I want to reflect on custody battles between two fit parents. Jimmy Carter’s quote on wars could be well applied to custody actions: like war, a custody battle sometimes may be a necessary evil. But, like war, no matter how necessary, it is still an evil, never a good.
I am not talking about cases where children are abused or are in danger and need to be rescued. I am talking about the cases where both mother and father are fit parents, but their failure to communicate and co-parent is causing the litigation.
Guardian Ad Litems are often appointed in custody cases to help the judge determine what would be in the best interests of the children. Guardian At Litem’s rates starts at $175.00 per hour and the parties have to cover the Guardian’s fees on top of their attorney’s fees.
Though Guardian Ad Litems are trained professionals, they usually only see the children a handful of times before they write their report and make their recommendations to the judge regarding which parent is best for custody. Consequently, communicating with the Guardian Ad Litem and complying with all of his/her requests is vitally important.
Though I believe that having a Guardian Ad Litem on the case is usually a tremendous help and almost always a positive thing, in countless cases, Guardians cannot be appointed because the parties cannot afford it. $175 an hour adds up quickly. Some counties, like Fulton County, have social workers who can be appointed in certain situations to help a judge to make a decision, but in the majority of counties, no such opportunity exists.
Then it all comes down to who is more persuasive and has better evidence. Litigation is costly and takes a long time, and in many cases one or both parents manipulate children during the process. Don’t forget that in many cases, unless there were temporary hearings, the judge who decides your case is probably seeing you for the first time.
Custody litigation between two fit parents is almost never a good thing. It is an evil. Make sure to have an experienced attorney who will help you through the process and advise you on all your options, including alternative dispute resolution and myriad other solutions and arrangements that could apply in your case.
Remember, if you have to suffer an evil, at least make it a necessary one. Don’t engage in a battle when the problem is really that you don’t communicate in a conversation. That’s the least your children could ask of you.