Divorce is exceptionally difficult for everyone involved, but your child can experience even more stress and anxiety. After all, he or she has no control over what is happening and likely has no idea how divorce will affect his or her life. You naturally want what is best for your child, but divorce can pull you in many different directions all at once – and you may be left with nothing but not-great options. If the court appoints a minor’s counsel to your child, the intention is to help the involved judge support the child’s best interests, and your efforts to help him or her feel comfortable with the situation can go a long way toward increasing the likelihood that involving a minor’s counsel will be beneficial.
If you have questions or concerns related to your child’s minor counsel, don’t wait to reach out to an experienced California family law attorney for the help you need.
In California, a minor’s counsel can be appointed by the court in any case that involves child custody or visitation, including divorce cases. If you are seeking a divorce, it does not automatically mean that your child will need a minor’s counsel. In fact, they are more the exception than the rule.
If you and your divorcing spouse are able to hammer out your custody terms between yourselves, your divorce will settle out of court, and your child is not likely to require the services of a minor’s counsel in this low-conflict scenario. If, on the other hand, you and your soon-to-be-ex are very far apart regarding your child custody arrangements and the heat is turning up, a minor’s counsel may be deemed appropriate for your child.
All the following factors increase the likelihood that a minor’s counsel will be necessary:
- The child is exhibiting signs of stress in response to the divorce.
- There is high conflict and/or considerable legal history involved.
- Neither parent is sharing all the necessary information to support the child’s best interests (which is always the court’s focus).
- Claims of child abuse or neglect have been made.
- One or both parents may be incapable of providing the child with stable, secure, enriching, and safe living arrangements.
- There are unique issues involved that the minor’s counsel may be able to shed helpful light upon.
- The court, in its considerable discretion, believes that having a minor’s counsel is in the child’s best interests (for any reason the judge deems relevant).
If you are at the point that your child has already been appointed a minor’s counsel, he or she is very likely under considerable stress. And the thought of interacting with a stranger who is acting in a legal capacity is not going to make things easier. This is where you come in. By helping your child understand that there are no right or wrong answers to the counselor’s questions and that all he or she needs to do is answer them as honestly as possible – with no fear of reprisal – you can help assuage your child’s fear and help him or her prepare for what’s to come. It’s important to note that not all minor’s counsel are appointed by the court, and if you believe your child could benefit from the service, you can request the appointment.
The minor’s counsel acts as a neutral voice for the child – in support of his or her rights and emotional well-being and without pushing for the child to support one parent over the other. A primary task taken on by every minor’s counsel is acting as a fact-finder in the case at hand. By gathering all the relevant information, protecting the child’s best interests becomes more doable. Towards this end, your child’s minor counsel may engage in all the following:
- Interviewing your child and his or her therapist and/or medical doctor
- Interviewing both you and your child’s other parent
- Evaluating your child’s medical and school records
- Examining any psychological evaluations of your child
Within this context, your child’s minor counsel has considerable rights that allow him or her to better protect your child’s rights.
While a minor’s counsel can help protect your child’s rights, it’s also important to protect your own parental rights throughout the process. A compassionate California family law attorney will skillfully advocate for your own and your child’s legal rights.