In California, the Family Court Judges can appoint an attorney to represent just the child in a difficult custody case (Family Code Section 3151). These attorneys in Family Law are called Minor's Counsel. Oftentimes, if the Judge has specific concerns or wants a neutral opinion regarding the best interests of the child, an attorney will be appointed to investigate these concerns and bring facts to the Court. Our attorneys are routinely appointed as minor's counsel in Orange County and Los Angeles County Family Courts. Parties can agree for minor's counsel to be appointed and ask the Court to make an order for the appointment of an attorney for the child.
When our attorneys are appointed to represent a child, we will receive an appointment order from the Court. When that order is given to us, we will contact each parent (or their attorneys) and request information including relevant documents in the family's history. We will also send a questionnaire for each parent to complete giving us the background and information regarding the family. We will then contact schools, counselors, or relevant third parties to get further information. We will set an appointment to meet individually with each child. Children are spoken to privately so the attorney can learn as much as possible to represent the child's interests. We ask that parents not discuss appointments with their child but instead tell the child they are meeting with someone who wants to learn about their family. Our meetings with our child clients are confidential and private.
Family Code 3042 states that the child's preferences are to be listened to in certain situations. However, even if the Court listens to the child's wishes, that does not mean that the Court will do exactly what a child wants. Just like kids sometimes do not want to eat vegetables, sometimes they do not know exactly what is in their best interest. Therefore, the Court will consider a child's wishes, but the Judge may not follow the exact preference of a minor. Minor's counsel helps provide facts and information to assist the Court and will convey the child's preference if a child's preference is well thought out and based on legitimate concerns, not pressure or outside influence.
We take being appointed as minor's counsel very seriously. We have extensive training in representing children. We look forward to working with your children and representing them to the best of our abilities.