Why would my child have his/her own attorney?
The short answer is: A child can be appointed his/her own attorney, called minor’s counsel, to advocate on the child’s behalf and make recommendations that focus on the child’s best interests to the presiding Judge.
Minor’s counsel is one of the many tools available to you and to the family law Court to figure out the question in custody cases – What is right for my child’s specific needs?
A minor may be appointed their own counsel to represent the child’s interests in court. Private family law attorneys may be appointed to represent involved minors in family law cases, such as in high conflict divorces, cases involving child abuse or child neglect, or domestic violence. Generally, the cost is paid for one or both parents.
Minor’s counsel is tasked with the sole job of representing the best interests of the child – not of representing the child’s parents. A key role of minor's counsel is to provide an unbiased and neutral perspective. This means minor's counsel is independent of each parent’s perspective and preferences.
Minor's counsel's role is to first investigate. The investigation can include interviewing the child, reviewing the child's school and/or medical records, interviewing the child’s teachers, therapists, and/or doctors. When a child is of "sufficient age and maturity," minor's counsel can also investigate the child's wishes and preferences in relation to custody, parenting schedules, even the school the child attends.
Minor's counsel can evaluate the situation from an independent standpoint, assess the child's circumstances, and provide recommendations to the court based on what they genuinely believe is in the child's best interests.
Then, at a hearing, where the child is not present, minor's counsel communicates the relevant information to the presiding judge and to each parent's counsel, to assist the judge in making decisions about child custody and visitation.
The benefit to having a minor's counsel involved is to protect minors from directly testifying, either to protect them from being directly involved in the court process or because the child is too young to be permitted to testify. Instead, the minor will be interviewed at their attorney's office, in an age-appropriate manner. Questions will be asked without pushing the child to align with one parent or the other.
Having a voice in these proceedings can help the child feel validated, respected, and more likely to have their unique needs and wishes considered by the court.
By having a dedicated advocate, the child's rights and interests can be safeguarded, helping to ensure positive outcomes that prioritize the child’s well-being.
Review, use or transmission of the information above does not create an attorney-client relationship.