Minor's Counsel FAQ: Explain, is minor's counsel necessary in a custody case in Orange County California?
Is minor's counsel necessary in a custody case in Orange County CA - What Should I Know about Minor’s Counsel in California?
In California, the law allows the judge to consider a child’s opinion in any child custody case, especially those that include a child who is at least 14 years old. Usually, the child is allowed to speak directly to the judge, so it is often a good idea for the minor to speak with an attorney before appearing in trial.
A family law lawyer who is appointed for a child is called minor’s counsel, and his or her job is to act as a neutral voice for the child that understands and protects the child’s rights, wellbeing, and best interests. Minor’s counsel is often able to remain neutral better than the child’s parents because the family lawyer is not emotionally involved in the legal case.
When a minor receives counsel, that person is only intended to represent the child. Sometimes, when more than one child is involved in a custody case, more than one minor’s counsel will be appointed because each child has unique needs. However, minor’s counsel is not necessary in every child custody case.
Today we’re going to cover the basics of minor’s counsel in California.
Why is Minor’s Counsel Necessary?
Minor’s counsel is not necessary in every court case, or even in every case that involves children in California.
However, a court may choose to appoint minor’s counsel in any case that does involve children. California law promotes and protects a child’s best interests in all family law cases that involve children. Sometimes, two parents may not be able to agree on a custody agreement, they may not be looking out for the child’s best interests, or the child may simply be stressed about his or her custody case or the thought of appearing in court or choosing between his or her parents.
In order to create an environment in which the child is safe, calm, and able to think clearly about his or potential custody situation, minor’s counsel may be appointed. The family law attorney can provide advice to the child and guide the child through the legal process.
Once a minor’s counsel has been appointed, that attorney represents the child until he or she turns 18, unless the court decides to terminate the relationship early.
Who Can Request that a Minor’s Counsel be Appointed?
During a family law related court case involving children in California, there are several people who may request minor’s counsel.
• Either party to the case, including the parents in a divorce or child custody case, may request that minor’s counsel be appointed;
• The attorneys of either party to the case may request that minor’s counsel be appointed;
• The child may request that minor’s counsel be appointed;
• The child’s relatives may request that minor’s counsel be appointed;
• Other professionals may also request that minor’s counsel be appointed, including a child custody mediator, an evaluator, or a counselor;
• The court also has the option of appointing minor’s counsel without a request from another party.
In order for minor’s counsel to be appointed or to be released from representing a child prior to the child’s 18th birthday, the court needs to issue a court order. All of these orders need to include basic information about the child and the lawyer.
• Information about the attorney who will take the role of minor’s counsel, including
• The attorney’s name
• The attorney’s address
•The attorney’s telephone number
• Information about the child who is involved in the legal case, including
• The child’s name
• The child’s birthdate
Sometimes, these orders will include other information, such as the following.
• The child’s address,
• A small summary of the case,
• A list of reasons why minor’s counsel is necessary or helpful,
• The responsibilities of the counsel,
• The cost of the lawyer, including which parties are responsible for paying and how much,
• Any rights the court retains regarding the modification of a payment plan,
• Other information that the court sees fit to include.
What does Minor’s Counsel Do in a Court Case?
Minor’s counsel is intended to represent one child during a court case involving children. As a lawyer representing a child, the minor’s counsel needs to protect the child’s best interests, remain neutral and refrain from choosing one parent over the other, and help the child to both understand the case and make smart decisions for him or herself.
So, how does a minor’s counsel achieve these goals?
First, the minor’s counsel will get to know the child and the case He or she can gather evidence about the child’s best interests, including things about the child’s family and home life, the child’s life within his or her school and community, and any special needs that the child may have.
The minor’s counsel will also speak with the child to get a better understanding of the child’s current feelings, needs, wants, and opinions. If the child wants to share his or her opinion in court, the minor’s counsel may do so on the child’s behalf.
If the child wants to address the court on his or her own, the minor’s counsel will inform the court that the child wishes to do so, and, pending a decision by the judge, will counsel the child on how to address the court.
To gather more information, the minor’s counsel may also interview the child and explain what is going on, and review any and all court files or records that are available to either party to the case. In addition to any court files and records, the minor’s counsel also has access to a child’s mental health and physical health records, dental records, school records, emotional records, and other health care related information about the child.
The information gathered from these sources often leads to further questions, so the minor’s counsel can also investigate further if the need arises.
In the investigation into the child’s life, the minor’s counsel can interview a number of people who play a role in the child’s life, including any school personnel, caretakers, physical and mental health care providers, and anyone else who provides care for the child.
As an attorney to the case, the minor’s counsel cannot be called to the stand as a witness during trial. He or she can, however, call witnesses to the stand to promote the child’s case.
Who is Responsible for a Minor’s Counsel Fees?
Usually, regardless of who requested the appointment of minor’s counsel, a child’s parents are responsible for paying for the lawyer. Usually, the parents are the two opposing parties in a case where minor’s counsel is appointed.
However, in some cases, the court will cover the cost of the minor’s counsel.
In determining costs, the court sets a reasonable price for the lawyer, and decides what each party will owe based on each party’s ability to pay. Failure to pay when a court has ordered it may result in a lawsuit.
What are the Requirements to Become a Minor’s Counsel?
In order for an attorney to become a minor’s counsel, there are certain requirements that he or she needs to meet.
• The lawyer needs to be in good standing with the State Bar of California;
• He or she needs to have professional liability insurance, or show the court that he or she is self insured;
• The attorney needs to have already completed a minimum of 12 hours of training and education on the topics specified in the rule 5.242 of the California Rules of Court; and
• The lawyer must keep up with the minimum of eight hours of training every year.
To show the court that he or she is qualified to be appointed a minor’s counsel, a lawyer needs to file a declaration with the court that demonstrates all of these requirements. The declaration needs to be filed with court a minimum of ten days prior to beginning work on a case.
Orange County Minor’s Counsel Lawyers
Requesting or dealing with a minor’s counsel in California does not have to be a complicated process. Minor’s counsel is there to protect a child and his or her best interests while allowing that child to have a voice in a legal case, like a child custody case, that can affect the child’s life.
As a parent, it is your job to protect your child’s best interests. However, when emotions are running high during stressful situations, like child custody cases, sometimes the appointment of minor’s counsel is for the best.
If you have questions about requesting minor’s counsel, a lawyer who has already been appointed, or the decisions that the minor’s counsel has made, speak with your attorney. If you are involved in any kind of legal issue related to family law in Orange County, you should already have an attorney on your side. In addition, remember that when minor’s counsel is appointed, he or she only represents the child, and as a party to the case, you will need to hire your own lawyer.
You cannot choose the attorney who will represent your child, however, you can speak to an attorney who has experience representing minors in court.
Contact the attorneys at Yanez & Associates today to schedule your free initial consultation with a qualified family lawyer in Orange County.
For more answers to questions on a non-professional provider of supervised visitation please please visit a guide for the non-professional provider of supervised visitation.
Minors Counsel in our highly conflicted caseRating: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 starsRated By Google User:Joseph Stock
Bettina Yanez was assigned to my children as minors counsel in our highly conflicted case. Her professionalism, honesty, & unbiased opinion was the ONLY one I feel that I saw in the entire 2 1/2 years I was battling for custody to see my Children again. Her character and respect was above all else that I had seen up to that point. My children said that they felt safe, protected, & happy whenever they spoke with her too, which was most important to me as a Father. I can't begin to express my gratitude for everything her & her team have done for my children's overall best interest. I finally get to see them again regularly now on a full time basis, & I whole heartedly believe that her efforts for fighting for my children's personal wishes to have me back in their lives again is one of the biggest reasons why. She never gave up on fighting for what she felt was best for them, & knew how much they wanted/needed me back in their lives again on a regular basis.
Even though she was assigned from the courts and (I would assume) not paid top dollar, Bettina still took the time to research our case from the beginning to end, and really look into all of the facts considered to ensure my children's best interest would be met. She even responded to all parties involved after hours, & always made sure she was personally available whenever her presence was requested by the Court to be my childrens "voice".
I paid for my own personal lawyer to represent my case, & just watching her professionalism and seeing how much she cared and invested in my children's needs, made me wish I would have had someone of her caliber on my side representing me as well. I have had 3 lawyers in my life, & none compared to what I saw exemplified from her while representing my children. She always made sure to remain impartial with me and the children's mother, & truly made it about the childrens wants, needs, & desires.
Bettina is truly second to none, & I promise you will be glad you chose her to represent you, just like I am grateful that the courts chose her to represent my children as well.