Judge's Table

SCRIPTS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH

Your Attorney &
Guardian ad Litem

Having a good working relationship with your attorney — and Guardian ad Litem in your custody case — is so important to achieving a good outcome. We show you how to communicate your needs in a way that’s designed to get the results you’re looking for.

 

1.

When you need more information/better communication

THE SITUATION
 

You don’t feel you’re getting the communication you need from your lawyer.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

  • To have better communication and a clearer understanding of your case.

  • To have your concerns addressed promptly.

THE STRATEGY



Speak up

If you have a concern about how your lawyer is communicating with you, it’s important to share it.  A good lawyer is usually a busy one, and they may not always realize when a client needs more from them than they’re giving.  



Set expectations

Having a brief conversation about how and when you can expect to receive responses can help reduce your anxiety. 



Understand not everything is an emergency

Even if it feels like it to you. Ask yourself if this is truly urgent or if it's something that  - even if important - doesn’t necessarily warrant an immediate response.
 


Remember details make a difference

Avoid being vague when you discuss this with your lawyer. Instead of “it takes too long to hear from you,” try “it took 5 business days to get a response to my last email about our upcoming hearing, and I think this is too long.”

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. I’d like to talk about how we communicate about my case.  I know this is second nature to you, but it’s new to me.  As you know, it’s an overwhelming and uncertain time for me.  It would help me to receive regular updates about my case - so I know what deadlines are coming up and what to expect.  Also, when something comes in from the other side, if you can give me a brief explanation about what it is and how you feel it will impact my case, that would help.  If there are things I can be doing to help you manage my case, please let me know.
     

  2. I know you’re very busy and can’t always respond right away.  But this process is very stressful for me and I need to hear from you.  When I have an urgent question, what is the best way for me to communicate it to you?  And what is an acceptable amount of time in your eyes to wait for a response? It would be helpful for me to set parameters and expectations to help things run smoothly in the future.

 

2.

When you’re not seeing eye to eye with your lawyer

THE SITUATION
 

You feel uncomfortable about what’s going on in your case - either with your lawyer’s advice to you or how she’s handling your case outwardly.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

To figure out if you and your lawyer can work better together (or if it’s time to change lawyers).

THE STRATEGY 

If you have a concern about how your case is being handled, address it early.  It’s much easier to course-correct if you deal with issues when they come up, rather than waiting until your case is farther along.  Ask your lawyer to explain her thoughts and strategy, as there may be reasons things are being done the way they are that you aren’t aware of. If you feel your lawyer isn’t advocating for you, you need to find out if your expectations are off or if the lawyer isn’t a good fit for you.

THE SCRIPTS

  1. I realize that I'm the client and you're the lawyer, but I see things a bit differently than you do. Certain things are important to me (such as how much child support I'll receive and that I keep the house), that you either don't think are important or don't think I can get.  I need to understand the basis for your opinion, whether it’s because of similar cases you’ve been involved with or if there is something specific in my case that leads to your opinion.  Also, if I want to go for an outcome that may be different than you think is likely, are you willing to do that?  This is extremely important to me, and I  need to know if we can be on the same page.
     

  2. I’m not comfortable with the tone that’s being taken in my case.  I feel we need to be more (fill in the blank:  aggressive, reasonable, willing to compromise, etc.). I’d like to know your thoughts on that, what you see as the pros and cons to each approach, and if you’re willing to make a shift. 

 

3.
When you disagree with a Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation

THE SITUATION 
 

You have a Guardian ad Litem (or custody evaluator) in your case, and you don’t agree with her recommendation.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME

To persuade the Guardian ad Litem to change her recommendation - either a tweak or a full reversal.

THE STRATEGY

The level of difficulty of this task will depend on how far off the Guardian is from what you want, and also if she's finished her work or not.  The earlier in the Guardian's investigation, the easier it may be to push for a different outcome.  Guardians are supposed to keep an open mind, so even if it’s later in your case, that doesn’t mean all is lost. The key is to communicate calmly and stay focused on the facts. Point out your concerns with her recommendation, and if you have it, provide the information she hasn't considered that could lead to a different result.  Also, suggest the outcome you want. And remember, as a parent, it’s always ok to voice concern about what’s best for your kids, but if you get argumentative, insulting, or challenging towards the GAL, you’re not going to come out on top.

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. I’d like to discuss your recommendation about the schedule. I know you feel mid-week overnights with their dad are important. I agree they need to see him more.  But I’m concerned that spending the night on Wednesday is going to be too much for Jack. He has a lot of anxiety about getting his homework done and tests are usually on Thursdays.  Would you consider either having the mid-week be just a dinner or at least moving it to another night?  I’d also be open to him having longer “weekends” so the overnights are all in a row.  I think any of those options would be less disruptive while still giving more time for the kids to be with their father.
     

  2. We’ve been following the temporary schedule you recommended for 3 months now, and I want to update you on how things are going.  I’ve been keeping a log of the dates that Bill has either been late picking up the children or missed parenting time. I also have emails from the teachers outlining instances where the kids have not turned in homework on the days they were with him. I’m attaching everything for you to review. Based on this, I’m not certain this schedule is best for the boys going forward. I’d ask you to consider this in your final recommendation.
     

  3. I've reviewed your recommendations. I know you've put a lot of work into our case and I appreciate it.  Generally, I'm ok with your plan but there are a few things I'd like to discuss.  Are you set on your opinion or are you still open to considering other options?
    (Note:  Asking this lets the Guardian keep an open mind to receiving your ideas, instead of putting her on the defensive about her own).

 

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