What is Minor's Counsel?
Minor's Counsel is an attorney appointed by the court to represent a child or children. Minor's Counsel only represents the child and does not represent the parents in any capacity.
Why is Minor's Counsel needed?
In California, Minor's Counsel must determine what is in the best interest of the child and determine what the minor's preference is if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody.” (Family Code 3042) Minor's Counsel works to investigate the allegations and facts presented.Depending on the situation and case, the Court could also request Minor's Counsel look into specific issues relating to the child. In order to better inform Minor's Counsel regarding the child, Minor's Counsel is tasked with gathering information regarding the child and their best interests from various sources. As such, Minor's Counsel has access to the child's records, including medical and school records and has the right to interview any relevant person in the child's life.
Can I Hire You To Represent My Child?
No. The court must appoint an attorney to represent the child. A parent can request an attorney be appointed or if both parents are in agreement, they can enter into a stipulation for Minor's Counsel to be appointed. However, only the Judge can actually appoint Minor's Counsel.
Who Pays The Attorney Fees For Minor's Counsel?
The court will decide who pays Minor's Counsel fees when they appoint Minor's Counsel. In some cases, the court may require one parent to pay all the fees. In other cases, the fees might be split between both parents. However, if the court has found a parent to be indigent under the court's financial guidelines, then the court can order the county to pay Minor's Counsel fees.
Once Minor's Counsel Is Appointed, What Is The Next Step?
The court will notify our office once we have been appointed to represent the child/children. At this point our office will send each party a letter with an information packet and release forms allowing us to speak with doctors, school officials, etc. If the court has ordered the parties to pay Minor's Counsel fees, the retainer fee must be paid to our office prior to any work being done on the case. Once the retainer fee, information packets, and release forms are received, our office will begin our review and investigation of the case. We ask that any concerns a party have be sent to us in writing. As Minor's Counsel, we generally do not speak with the parents.
One important aspect is our meeting with the minor. Our office will contact the primary custodial parent to schedule an appointment with the minor to meet with his/her attorney. At this appointment, only the child will speak with the attorney. After interviewing the child, our office will continue our investigation of any relevant problems. The attorney will discuss the findings with both parties and their attorneys, as well as the judge at the court hearing. If a written statement of issues and contentions is required by the judge, this will be filed with the court before the hearing date.
The Court Has To Listen To My Child's Preference, Right?
In California, Minor's Counsel must determine what is in the best interest of the child. Minor's Counsel determines what the minor's preference is if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody.” (Family Code 3042)
Should I Discuss The Case With My Child?
No. We ask that the parents not discuss any issues of the case with the child. Litigation is difficult for adults to handle and even more stressful for the child. Please refrain from telling your child anything regarding the case or what to say to his/her attorney. You should also refrain from discussing your child's interview/meeting with his/her attorney.