Understanding Minor’s Counsel
When a couple is going through a divorce, there are numerous challenges which they face. One of the biggest challenges is addressing the needs of the children of the marriage. Both parents nearly always feel they must take care to address those needs — unfortunately, in many cases, parents cannot agree on what those needs are. Challenges exist whenever a child is involved. However, when a child is under 13 — the age when children may be allowed to present their wishes to the court pertaining to where they live — the challenges may be greater. This is when the court may opt to involve a Minor’s Counsel.
Minor’s Counsel in Family Law
When parents are going through a divorce, one of the issues which must be addressed is where the children will live following the divorce. In some cases, both parents feel it is in the best interest of the child for them to live under their roof. This is always problematic because both parents are likely represented by an attorney who will serve as their advocate. Therefore, each attorney is creating a picture of why one parent is the one where the child should reside. This means the court is often left to make a determination of which side is “right”.
The courts have a mandate to always act in the best interest of a child when it pertains to physical custody — determining where the child lives. The court must also make a determination about parenting time, and legal custody — determining if one parent or both parents should have a say in matters including schooling, health care, and religious upbringing. In these cases, a judge often will appoint an independent third party to evaluate both parents, speak with the child (or children) and then write a report detailing their findings. In Orange County, this person is called a Court-Appointed Advisor. In other states, they are considered to be “Minor’s Counsel”.
Minor’s Counsel Fact-Finding Role
The role of the person assigned by the court is one of fact-finding. Therefore, one can expect certain actions and rights being assigned to this role. Some of those rights and actions include:
- Allowed to speak with the child without parental interference
- Notification when any requests for exams may impact the child
- Rights to interview anyone who has cared for the child including medical personnel, case workers, schoolteachers, or individuals
- Access to all the child’s records including school and medical
- The right to present a fair and accurate assessment to the court taking only the child’s interests and desires into consideration
This person filling this role also has an obligation to maintain the privacy of the child. They may share information the child shared with them with the court, but the information shall not be shared with the parents without the permission of the court.
Child Custody: Four Forms in Orange County
There are different classifications of child custody in California and each has its own definition. Typically, unless there is a valid reason, the court prefers to allow both parents legal custody which involves making decisions for the child’s future including their education. Primarily, the court’s interest is in doing what is right for the child at all times. The four forms are:
- Legal Custody
- Physical Custody
- Sole Custody
- Joint Custody
Working Towards a Mutually Agreeable Resolution
In many cases, a family law court will recommend, or order, mediation, or arbitration if the parents have been able to resolve some of the issues pertaining to their marriage. This allows the couple to keep the lines of communication open. It is always preferable for parents to reach a mutual agreement — regardless of the reasons for your divorce, you will be forever tied together because of your children.
These methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are generally preferable to fighting things out. Many couples find they can agree on several issues and only have disagreements over a few issues. ADR can be helpful in these cases because it can help keep the parties civil despite their disagreements. In most cases, it is also helpful because it allows the parties to maintain a healthy relationship after their divorce which is better for the children.
Children Need Both Parents
Nearly everyone agrees children should be able to have a loving and supportive relationship with both parents. This is the primary goal of the court whether they accept a couple’s previously negotiated agreement, or they appoint a third party to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
Parents have a responsibility to allow children to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent regardless of who has physical custody of the child. One way to ensure this is to treat each other respectfully despite any ill feelings. This will always be what is best for the child, regardless of their age.
We know divorce and matters pertaining to children are complicated. Whether you are just beginning the divorce process, or you and your spouse have already started the process and you need help managing the issues pertaining to your children, you want an attorney who has experience and a track record of working on behalf of their clients.
The family law attorneys at Pedrick Law Group, APC, know how to navigate the complexities that surround child custody. We can help you navigate the complexities of custody. Contact us today at 949-388-8682 or fill out our online contact form.