In most California child custody cases, minors are rarely allowed to testify in court or speak to the judge directly. Because of this fact, the court will appoint minor’s counsel to interview the child about their concerns and their custodial preference.
Minor’s counsel is 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. Their role is to consider what is the best interest of the child, while not being bound by emotions that often come with divorce, child abuse, neglect, and other difficult issues often associated with contested child custody or divorce cases
Minor’s counsel only represents the child. If there is more than one child involved, separate counsel for each child may be appointed. The county might pay for the representation if the parents can’t afford to pay themselves but usually the court requires one or both parents to pay the fees. 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.
Minor’s counsel is 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.
What Do “Minor’s Counsel” Do, Exactly?
Minor’s counsel act as fact finders. They learn about the child’s best interests including the health, safety, and welfare of the child. They will gather information from interviews with the child, the parents, therapists, and doctors. They will also evaluate school and medical records, psychological evaluations, and any other record that provides relevant information pertaining to the child’s needs.
Minor’s counsel is entrusted with rights in order to protect the child’s best interests
Some of these rights are as follows:
- Reasonable access to the minor;
- Seeking relief on behalf of the minor;
- Notices of proceedings and all phases of the proceeding, including requests for examinations that may affect the minor;
- The right to interview individuals and review records relating to medical, dental, psychological, school, case workers, service providers, or any other individual that has cared for the child;
- Required to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the law;
- The right to be given notice of, to seek or refuse independent medical and psychological exams, for the purpose of the proceedings, unless court ordered;
- The right to be provided all court filings and documents and to file proceedings and respond on behalf of the minor;
- Monitor advocates, parents, counselors, state workers and others involved with the child to ensure that they are not violating the child’s rights;
- Be at every hearing where it pertains to custody, evaluation, visitation, or any hearing directly related to the child; and
- To be notified and present as well as be given the opportunity to be make statements or be heard by the court on behalf of the minor.
In some cases, minor’s counsel may express the child’s wishes to the court but know that their requests for action are given insignificant weight.