In many divorce cases in California, the minor children are usually not allowed to speak up or testify for their concerns in the court of law. Or to put it more clearly, minors involved in a parental divorce are not allowed to voice their opinions directly in front of a judge. However, for this reason, the court has a provision of facilitating a ‘minor counsel’ to represent the child in the trial proceedings.
Who is a Minor’s Counsel? In simple words, the court appoints a neutral third party as a minor’s counsel who is supposed to interact with the child and determine his or her preferences and concerns regarding the custody and visitation arrangements. The minor counsel is obligated to represent the child in the court of law and voice his opinions, without compromising on the latter’s emotional well being and right to expression. Minor’s Counsel is expected to stay neutral and represent the best interests of the child without trying to influence him or her to take sides with either parent. He also needs to establish the best interests of the child without being affected by his negative emotions in abuse, domestic violence or neglect related divorce cases. More often than not, the court specifies that separate minor counsels should be allotted for each of the children involved in a divorce. Typically, the parents are required to pay off the charges for appointing a minor counsel. However, if the parents cannot afford to do so, the county may offer to pay for the representation. The attorney who has been appointed as the Counsel will continue to exercise his representative duties until the child turns 18 years of age.
What is the function of Minor’s Counsel? Since the Minor’s Counsel is expected to be the voice of a child in the court of law, he should be well acquainted with the facts and figures related to the latter. He needs to research the general information regarding the child from his therapists, teachers and parents and establish as to what will be best for his safety and well being. Minor’s Counsel will also be required to browse through the medical history and school records of the child and determine whether there was any existing or past psychological condition that might aggravate in the current times of distress. Through an all round research of the child’s personality, a Minor’s Counsel can best evaluate his needs and make suggestions to the judge accordingly. A minor counsel also has the right to express and should express the child’s wishes in the court of law. However, it is up to the judge’s discretion to follow through with the requests or not.