Sometimes a minor needs their own counsel to represent their interests in court. Irwin & Irwin is experienced in handling these matters in Orange County.
It is important to note that the minor’s counsel represents the child alone, and if there is more than one child involved, the court may appoint each child their own minor’s counsel. If the parents cannot afford to cover the cost of the minor’s counsel, the county may cover the cost. Such an occurrence is atypical, however, and one or both parents are generally required to pay the legal fees.
Once the minor’s counsel is appointed, they become neutral fact-finders on behalf of the child, which means they are completely independent of each parent’s perspective and preferences. As such, the minor’s counsel remains the child’s neutral voice until they turn 18 or the court ends the appointment. The primary job of the minor’s counsel is to compile information – that can elude the court but has the potential to help the presiding judge make a better-informed decision – by engaging in all the following:
In response to the more-complete information that is accessible to the minor’s counsel, the court often takes their findings into more careful consideration. Once the minor’s counsel has completed their investigation for the court, they prepare a succinct report that highlights any concerns raised in relation to any of the following:
Ultimately, the minor’s counsel advocates for the child’s best interests in relation to the case at hand.
When children are considered old enough and mature enough to voice their reasonable preferences in relation to child custody cases that involve them, California courts are called upon to take such preferences into consideration. However, children rarely testify directly to the court or before judges, which is where minor’s counsels come in. in most cases, California courts deem the process of testifying before the court, their parents, and each parent’s counsel too anxiety provoking – or even traumatizing – to put a child through, and as such, they look to minor’s counsel to ascertain the preferences of the child in question and to share the information with the court as applicable.
Each minor’s counsel is called upon to act in the best interests of the child, which involves an array of factors – not just the child’s preferences, which may or may not have any bearing on the advocacy of the minor’s counsel – that depend upon the specific circumstances involved.
In California, the minor’s counsel acts as a child advocate who bases their determinations on the involved facts.
Teachers and caregivers in California are required to report any red flags or suspicions of abuse to Children’s Protective Services (CPS), and CPS is charged with determining whether a charge of neglect or abuse is founded. CPS is stretched very thin, and too many of its social workers are swift to remove children prior to putting any effort into determining whether there is a serious concern or even a better option available. Ultimately, mental health experts agree that unwarranted child removals are traumatic for the children involved and do not comport with their best interests.
Let’s consider an example of what commonly leads to the need for a minor’s counsel:
From here, things can go terribly wrong. If you are facing the loss of your children, it is important to recognize that you and they have inviolable legal rights that should be protected.
When a matter like the one above goes to court, the presiding judge may assign a minor’s
counsel to act as a neutral third party on behalf of the child’s best interests, but it’s important also to understand your rights as a parent.
If you are facing a difficult child custody case or a case involving child abuse or neglect, you need trusted legal counsel to represent your parental rights, and the court may assign a minor’s counsel as a child advocate to represent your child’s rights and best interests. These are complicated matters that guide significant consequences and, as a result, require seasoned guidance.
A parent can request that the court assign an Orange County minor’s counsel out of a specific group of qualified minor’s counsel attorneys. The court, however, must sign off on the request and must assign an attorney to the task. The court has a pool of minor’s counsel attorneys to pull from, and the court does not make random assignments, which means not just any lawyer can serve in the role of a child advocate.
The court determines who is responsible for paying the Orange County minor’s counsel’s fees based on the evidence and circumstances at hand. If the parents can’t afford the expense, the expense may fall to the county. If the expense can be afforded by the involved parties, however, one parent – or both parents – may be charged with covering the cost.
The minor’s counsel is tasked with ascertaining the best interests of the child in question. While doing so can include determining the child’s preferences, these preferences may play little or even no role in the recommendations made. Children require adult care, and therefore, their preferences – when they are mature enough to voice them – may factor into the decision-making process, but they do not guide it. While Orange County courts always side with the best interests of the child in question, the best interest is not necessarily the same thing as siding with their preferences.
Parents are strongly discouraged from discussing the case at hand with the child who has been assigned a child advocate – other than explaining the basic concept in terms your child can understand and assuring them that telling the truth is the best policy, which includes letting your child know that everything they discuss with the Orange County minor’s counsel will remain between them alone.