The Role of Minor's Counsel in California Family Law
What is Minor’s Counsel?
Minor’s Counsel is an attorney that represents a child in family law proceedings. Minor’s counsel is appointed by the court to advocate for a child’s best interests when there is a dispute about child custody and visitation, when there are allegations of child abuse, child neglect, or substance abuse, or in other situations the court deems appropriate under CRC rule 5.240(a). When there is more than one child in a case, the court may appoint minor’s counsel for each of the children.
What Does Minor’s Counsel Do?
The overarching role of a minor’s counsel is to represent the best interests of the child. Minor’s counsel provides a voice for the child in family law proceedings and ensures that the child’s needs and wishes are taken into account when decisions are made. Minor’s counsel does this by gathering information that helps them determine these best interests.
How Does Minor’s Counsel Do This?
In order for minor’s counsel to make recommendations to the court about issues related to the child’s welfare, like support, visitation, and custody, information is gathered from multiple sources that are connected to the child, including:
Interviewing the child: Minor’s counsel interviews the child outside of the presence of the parents in order to understand their preferences, wishes, concerns, and needs. This interview may include asking the child about their relationships with each parent, asking the child questions about their schooling, and asking the child questions about their home life and living situation.
Interviewing the parents: Minor’s counsel also interviews each parent individually in order to get their perspective on the situation and to understand their wishes and concerns.
Reviewing court documents and reports: Minor’s counsel will also review relevant court documents and investigation reports, if any, to further understand the issues of the case.
Consulting with other necessary individuals: Finally, minor’s counsel will also consult with psychologists, therapists, social workers, family members, teachers, and other persons who are a part of the child’s everyday life that can provide insight into the needs of the child and the child’s welfare.
The information that minor’s counsel gathers helps them make informed recommendations to the court that are in the best interests of the child.
Minor’s Counsel Costs
The cost of a court-appointed minor’s counsel is generally split between the parties. Under California Family Code section 3151(a), the court determines expenses to be paid and may order one or both parents to pay the costs depending on the financial resources of each of the parties, or it may direct the county to cover the costs if the court determines that it is appropriate to do so.
After the Recommendations Are Made
After minor’s counsel has made their recommendations to the court, depending on the specific circumstances of the case, minor’s counsel may be dismissed or they could continue to represent the child to ensure that the child’s best interests are being protected.
If a family law dispute involves minor children, minor’s counsel will not necessarily be appointed, but if they are, their role is to advocate for the best interests of the child and to provide guidance and recommendations to the court. Minor’s counsel ensures that the child’s interests are being protected throughout the proceedings.
At Harris & McKeown, we understand the importance of the parent-child relationship and how the appointment of minor’s counsel can add to the complexity of an already fragile situation. Andrew McKeown is a court approved minor’s counsel for Orange County and all attorneys at Harris & McKeown Law Firm have completed extensive training and continuing education regarding the proper representation of children in family court. If you are located in Orange County or the surrounding area and you need help navigating your family law case schedule a consultation appointment online or by calling (949) 297-6529.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.