#158 – The Kids’ Best Interest

I live in an area where a street’s name can change from one intersection to the next, and every other road seems to be called “Peachtree.” For those reasons, I rely heavily on a GPS unit when driving to unfamiliar places. Except, after this morning’s events, I think I’ll need to find a more trustworthy device.

A local judge recently appointed me as guardian ad litem in a child custody battle. In that role, I’m required to evaluate the children and make a custody recommendation based on their best interests.

I’d scheduled my initial home evaluation this morning, at the residence occupied by the current primary custodian. For purposes of today’s tale, I’ll refer to her as “Mrs. Smith.” Since Mrs. Smith lives in an area unfamiliar to me, I relied on my trusty GPS unit for directions.

The annoying GPS lady sent me far from the nearest urban venues, leading me on single lane roads beside farm-dotted landscapes, before finally announcing that I’d arrived at my destination.

When a much older woman than I’d anticipated opened the door, I introduced myself as the “lawyer sent by the Court.” Although she said she didn’t expect my visit, it seemed obvious that she anticipated an evaluation at some point. She basically told me so, despite misphrasing her question: “So, you’re the one who’s going to ‘value’ everything?”

When she asked me where I’d like to begin, I told her: “I’d prefer to see the kids first, if that’s alright. Talking to them will help me determine what’s in their best interest.”

She answered: “I didn’t know their best interest counts for anything, and I don’t see how talking to them will help. But you’re the expert.” She told me the kids were outside and led me there.

Oddly, I couldn’t see or hear any children in her backyard. And while the property was spacious, its grass-covered acreage didn’t seem capable of hiding a child from plain sight. Still, I spotted nothing except a small flock of mini-goats grazing on the lawn.

Puzzled, I queried: “Where’re the kids?”

Equally bewildered, she answered: “They’re right there. Don’t you see ’em?” She pointed toward the goats.

Yep. Those were her “kids.” As I belatedly learned, my crappy GPS unit had directed me to the wrong residence! The woman answering the door hadn’t actually given her name, and I’d wrongly taken her for Mrs. Smith. Equally, she’d mistaken me for an appraiser sent to value the home and its possessions. All she knew was that her lawyer had hired someone as part of the probate process for her late husband’s estate.

Unless I can figure a way to salvage something from today’s “evaluation,” I’ll have wasted an entire morning. If only I could base my report to the judge on my rural observations. Probably not, since the most I could say is: “The kids appear to be well-groomed, well-treated, and well-fed. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone chew his cud more contentedly.”

The kids at play

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