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Never married father nearing custody trial, disappointed with 50/50 recommendation by GAL

Your Question:
I'll try to be brief, although I am not very good at it. I am 5 weeks out of a finale for my custody case. I am definitely feeling discouraged and am questioning why I filed. I am curious as to what I (personally) can do to prep for the trial. Here is the background: Never married. 4 1/2 year old daughter. I filed. Mother has a history of excessive drinking, but will be hard to show much since filing date (13 months ago). I do have quite a bit of info from birth to 3 1/2 years in regard to her drinking, and other behaviorial issues. My daughter was with me 4 nights and 58% of total time prior to filing. Since filing that has been reduced to 2 nights and 32% total time. I am now married, own a home, and my wife and I have a 2 year old son. Mother lives in a 2 bedroom apartment and often her mother ('granny') stays with her. Granny has had health issues and technically resides in another state. Mother has no relatives in town, and only aunt/uncle in state. My wife and I have all parents in town, and all are highly recognized individuals in our community. Numerous random issues with mom, such as (but not limited to) transporting daughter without a carseat, being too passed-out to answer door, and causing minor physical damage to my home. Sounds good so far, huh? Well, here is where it always goes wrong, right? I am the dad. GAL has just issued a bland, spineless 50/50 reccommendation with mom holding final veto power and custodial right. GAL's initial review indicated mine as the better household, but apparently he is 'waffling' now. GAL has also not interviewed all parties as instructed by the court, but has claimed to have done so. Conservative Judge. My Atty, whom I love to death, obviously is not emotionally invested - and it often shows. She came highly reccommended, and I do very much like her, but I am frustrated beyond anything as I battle the 'system' more than anything. Mom's Atty is 'cut-throat'. And finally, the best witnesses (who hold the most accurate and pertinent info) refuse to get involved. Ultimately, I am curious as to what I can do down the stretch that might help me out. First time in my life that I don't like being a male. Thanks in advance Eric. I have derived insight and respect from reading your posts.

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My Answer:

Okay, I've been sitting at the keyboard for a few minutes, trying to figure out where to start with you. It's not often that I get stumped with what theme I want to convey.

Here's what it comes down to... I'm even going to make this bold and highlighted, just to make sure you (and others) get it... ready?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with your common sense or your reasoning. But it's worthless and futile to stay entrenched in common sense when engaged in child custody matters.

Child custody (i.e., family law) outcomes are based upon a set of presumptions and trends that have nothing to do with using our common sense. Particularly intelligent people (perhaps you) can be their own worst enemies by putting emphasis on their own long-established logic that has been extremely valuable in other situations-- but that may not fit into how child custody works.

You're frustrated because you want this to work like the real world. It doesn't. It's a game that has its own rules.

So, you're left with a choice to make.

Play the game your way, be frustrated, suffer, and potentially see outcomes that are not ideal.

Or, learn the rules of the game, master your strategies, and increase chances of seeing a better outcome for your kid.

Now comes the fun part, for me at least, because you are SO far removed from the realities of family law that you have no clue where you stand in relation to the "game" of it.

If a parent wrote to me and said that he's had 32% custodial time for a year, that he was never married to the mother, and that there's not much relevant evidence as to any bad parenting of the mother during the past year... my response would be, "Dude, I think 50/50 is a long shot for you. Good luck on that."

So, you come to me having a GAL recommend a schedule that most fathers don't ever achieve in custody battles.

Just pause a minute and be thankful that the recommendation wasn't worse.

Okay, so where do you go from here? If you want to attack the GAL, you'll be attacking the 50/50 recommendation. If you successfully discredit the GAL, you're stuck with the status quo as your starting place. That's not a good thing. So, trying to impeach the GAL's recommendation is a tactic that you seriously need to discuss with your lawyer. That said, regardless of your approach, it doesn't hurt to ask for more than what the GAL recommends.

Regarding your comments about the attorneys-- if you want her to be emotionally involved, offer her a $50,000 bonus if she can get you sole custody. You hired an attorney to DO A JOB. It's personal to you, but you're just a client to her. You're not paying her enough to really care about you like a mommy, nor did you hire her to be a therapist. Don't go to a therapist for legal advice, and don't expect a lawyer to make you FEEL good.

A lawyer has one job: to get the outcome you want. Personality, tactics, approach, social skills, aggression... at the end of the day, results (within ethical bounds) is the ONLY thing that matters.

As to the facts you outlined for me, nearly all are irrelevant. Get the book "Child Custody A to Z - Winning with Evidence" to understand what evidence you need, and how to build it. I describe the book on my Recommended Books page.

Finally, know that you have 13 more years of raising this child. Whatever happens in 5 weeks at trial, if there are residual problems thereafter, you go back to court. If 50/50 clearly isn't working well for the child, or if any other troubles come up at any time that can't be resolved, you go back to modify the judgment. This is ONLY your first battle. If peace prevails thereafter, great. If not, you prepare to return to court a year later (or whenever).

That's why 50/50 is a great start for you. That's the holy grail for many fathers, and it would seem that you'll secure it in your first "round".

Get the book, learn the game, and go into trial with confidence and the air of a winner (NOT as the defeated man who wrote that email to me). Your glass is half full.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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