Divorce is often a painful and daunting process, especially when children are involved. Parents often choose legal aid (divorce lawyers) to help then get what is fair in the realm of family law. Some choose to represent themselves for financial reasons or if they cannot find a family lawyer. A simple attorney search online can help one find divorce lawyers or legal advice for those who are representing themselves. There are sources on the internet and in communities that provide free legal advice. A child support calculator provides an easy way to determine a fair amount of child support to be paid.
Minors are rarely allowed to testify in court or to speak to a judge directly. Because of this, the court will appoint a minor’s counsel, who is a lawyer, to interview the child about their custodial preference and factors involved in child custody decisions. Minor’s counsel is appointed by a judge to represent a child, not the parent, who often has his/her own divorce attorney. Parents can’t choose the lawyer, but they can request a particular family lawyer be appointed by the judge.
Minor’s counsel lawyers are supposed to be a neutral voice for the child, without compromising the child’s rights, emotional well-being, or forcing the child to side with one parent or the other after legal separation. The goal is to do what is the best for the minor child. Minor’s counsel lawyers are not bound by the emotions that often accompany divorce, child abuse, neglect, and other difficult issues that children and parents face, issues that are often associated with contested child custody or divorce cases.
Minor’s counsel represents the child, solely. If more than one child is born of the marriage, separate counsel for each child may be appointed. Often both parents share the fees of legal counsel for the child/children. Once assigned, the attorney continues to represent the minor until the child reaches the age of 18. In some cases, the court may choose to end their appointment early, if they feel that it is no longer necessary.
Minor’s counsel acts as an investigator to seek the facts of the situation where the represented children are involved. They learn about the child’s best interests including the welfare of the child, including the child’s health and safety. Legal aid will gather information from interviews with the child, the parents, therapists, and doctors who have knowledge of the particular child’s situation. The lawyers/counsel will also evaluate school records, psychological evaluations, medical records, and any other record that provides relevant information pertaining to the child’s needs and any other such evidence that is relevant.
After interviewing the child, the lawyer’s office will investigate any relevant concerns before the hearing. At the hearing, the lawyer will discuss what they’ve found with the other divorce attorney (family law attorney/divorce lawyer), the parents, and the judge and will offer his/her legal advice.
Minor’s counsel, at the request of the court, will prepare a written statement of issues and contentions regarding the facts that pertain to the best interests of the child. The statement is a summary of the information received by counsel, a list of the sources of information, the results of minor counsel’s investigation, and other matters as directed by the court. The statement is then filed with the court and is submitted to the parties or their attorneys prior to the hearing, unless the court orders otherwise.
Minor’s counsel can introduce and examine witnesses, present arguments to the court concerning the child’s welfare, and participate further in the proceeding to the degree necessary to adequately represent the child
Rights of Minor’s Counsel:
- Reasonable access to the child.
- To seek benefits on behalf of the child.
- Notice of any proceeding, and all phases of that proceeding, including a request for examination affecting the child.
- The right to take any action that is available to a party to the proceeding.
- Access to the child’s medical, dental, and other health care records, school records, and psychologist/psychiatrists records. He/she also has the right to interview school personnel, caretakers, health care providers, mental health professionals, and others who have been associated with the child or provided care to the child.
- The right to advanced notice of, and the right to refuse any examination or evaluation, for purposes of the proceeding, which has not been ordered by the court.
- The right to assert or waive any privilege on behalf of the child.
- The right to seek independent psychological or physical examination or evaluation of the child for purposes of the court proceedings, upon approval by the court.
Minor’s Counsel’s Access to Child Abuse Reports
Minor’s counsel can also request from the court a release of relevant local child protective services (CPS) reports. If granted, the court will review the reports to determine whether they are relevant to custody or visitation, and whether and to what extent they should be released to minor’s counsel.