In California, minors cannot always testify in court or address the judge directly in child custody cases. When appropriate, the court will appoint a minor’s counsel to represent the child’s best interests. The minor’s counsel acts as a voice for the child and is not influenced by emotions associated with child custody cases such as divorce, child neglect, and child abuse. Here is a brief breakdown of the role of a minor’s counsel.
Investigate Child-Related Facts
One of the crucial tasks of minor’s counsel is to gather facts on behalf of a child. The minor’s counsel will help the judge acquire information by speaking to the child in the absence of their parents. This makes it easier for the child to open up about their concerns and experiences.
The minor’s counsel also interviews doctors, teachers, and therapists to establish the child’s physical, mental, and emotional state.
By accessing medical records, the minor’s counsel will unearth information regarding the child’s health that may otherwise not be presented to the judge. Additionally, the minor’s counsel can request psychological and physical examinations of the minor, especially when there are claims of child abuse.
The minor’s counsel should also look into the child’s mental state. This involves examining their academic performance and how they relate with teachers and students. The minor’s counsel will review the child’s school records, including disciplinary and academic records.
Provide Reports to the Judge
When ruling on a child custody case, the judge will base their decision on the reports presented by the minor’s counsel. This report contains the findings of the minor’s counsel’s investigations.
In the report, the minor’s counsel will review findings on the child’s health, well-being, and safety. They may also question the child’s care and express their opinion about what they think is in the child’s best interests.
Express the Child’s Preference to the Judge
According to California law, judges are allowed to consider a child’s preference when ruling on custody and visitation cases if the child is mature enough to form an intelligent preference. In many cases, the child is not allowed to testify in court. This is because it can be a stressful and traumatic experience for the child. Furthermore, it can affect the child’s relationship with their parents.
Therefore, a minor’s counsel is charged with discussing the child’s preferences with them and expressing these to the judge. The minor’s counsel should express these preferences in a manner that protects the child’s wishes, rights, and relationship with their parents.
A minor’s counsel plays a significant role in ensuring a child’s best interest is met in a child custody or visitation dispute. Contact between doctors, therapists, teachers, and a minor’s counsel is crucial in successfully resolving a custody dispute. The neutral opinion of the minor’s counsel does not comprise the child’s rights or emotional well-being. It helps the child get the best possible judgment in a custody, visitation, or divorce case.
If you or your family is need of legal assistance, we offer free consultations.