Minor’s Counsel and Family Code Section 3150

Divorce cases are often quite stressful. Yet, when the divorce involves children and having to endure child custody hearings, the situation can become even more challenging, especially when the parents have a tumultuous relationship. In these high-conflict custody cases, a “minor’s counsel” may be appointed by either the court or the other party to represent the child’s interest. However, many people do not actually know what a minor’s counsel is, let alone what they do. To fully understand what this role means for your child, and how an Orange County minor’s counsel can affect your child’s custody case, we will first need to examine California’s Family Code Section 3150.

California Family Code Section 3150

Recently, California’s Family Code has been rewritten with respect to a minor’s counsel and the scope of their duties and the overall effect they have on the case. The new authority governed by California Family Code Section 3150¬†states the following:

  • (a) If the court finds that if it is in the best interest of the minor child, they will appoint a private counsel to represent the child’s interests, provided that counsel and the court comply with the requirements indicated in Rules 5.240, 5.241, and 5.242 of the California Rules of Court.
  • (b) Once counsel enters an appearance on behalf of the minor child according to this rule, they will continue to represent that child unless they are relieved by the court through the substitution of another counsel or for some other cause.

So What Exactly Does a Minor’s Counsel Do?

According to California’s Family Code, Section 3150, a minor’s counsel will not only act as a factfinder for the court, but they will also serve as the minor child’s attorney. It is their primary obligation to represent the child and look after their best interests concerning their safety, welfare, and health.

This special counsel will gather necessary information from interviews conducted with the parents, the child, doctors, and therapists, as well as through their evaluation of the child’s medical records, psychological evaluations, school records, and any other relevant information pertaining to the child and their needs. Once the minor’s counsel is done with their research, they will present their report to the court, who will then use this information to assist them in developing a complete picture of the minor child’s past and current well-being status. From these conclusions, the court can determine which decision is in the best interests of the child.

How Will a Minor’s Counsel Protect the Child’s Best Interests?

California’s Family Code explicitly spelled out what a lawyer, who was appointed to represent a minor child, can do to make sure they are looking out for the child’s best interests in a custody case. These rights include the following:

  • Reasonable access to the minor child.
  • Seeking affirmative relief on behalf of the minor child.
  • Notices of proceedings and all phases of the proceeding, including requests for examinations affecting the minor child.
  • The right to take action that is available to a party to the proceeding, including filing pleadings, presenting evidence, being heard in the proceedings, making evidentiary objections, presenting motions and orders, participating in settlement conferences, seeking writs, trials, appeals and arbitrations on behalf of the minor child.
  • The ability to interview individuals responsible for caring for the child, mediators, and review records relating to the minor child’s medical records, school records, caseworker’s information, dental records, psychological records, and service provider’s information. However, the release of this information to the minor’s counsel will not waive the confidentiality of the reports, communications, or files.
  • The right to be given adequate advance notice of and the ability to refuse an independent physical or psychological examination, for the purpose of the proceedings, unless the court ordered them.
  • The ability to monitor parents, counselors, state workers, and others involved with the child to make sure that they are not violating the rights of the minor child.

After their examination, the minor’s counsel is expected to prepare a written report for the court explaining the various issues of the case, the specific contentions of the parties, the child’s wishes, and the results of their investigation into what they believe is for the best interest of the child.

Will a Minor’s Counsel be Appointed in Every Custody Case?

Even though a minor’s counsel plays a significant role in a custody case, they are not appointed in every situation. In fact, a minor’s counsel is rare; usually, parents and lawyers that are already involved can gather the required evidence, which ultimately reduces the need for this special counsel. However, if there is an extensive conflict between the parents and the court finds that the attorneys involved are not helping the matter, the court may decide that an independent lawyer is needed to gather the appropriate evidence and determine what is in the best interest of the child.

Who is Responsible for Paying for a Minor’s Counsel?

Regardless of why or how the minor’s counsel is appointed, the parents of the minor child are responsible for paying for the service of this counsel. In situations where the parents cannot pay or afford these services and the court finds that a minor’s counsel is necessary, the court may then decide to pay for these services if there is available funding.

How Can an Orange County Family Law Attorney Help You?

Child custody disputes are often complicated, require a lot of information, and can put families in stressful situations. That is why if you are involved in a child custody case, you need an experienced Orange County family law attorney on your side.

Our firm understands that family law issues are not isolated, and child custody disputes will affect every area of your life. However, after 50 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys also know how to help you through this challenging time and provide you with the legal assistance you need. If you require further information regarding a minor’s counsel or would like to discuss your child’s custody case, please call Pedrick Law Group, APC, at (949) 388-8682 to schedule your consultation today.

 

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