When families in California divorce, laws prohibit minors from speaking to the judge or in a court testimony. Instead, a neutral attorney called the minor’s counsel will advocate for the child and represent his or her interests in the child custody case. 

If you are planning to divorce and have young children, explore the role of minor’s counsel if you expect a contentious custody decision. 

What does the minor’s counsel do? 

The minor’s counsel prevents the child from feeling like he or she has to side with one parent. This professional strives to protect the child’s emotional well-being throughout the process while determining the most favorable custody arrangement for his or her physical and mental health. 

Minor’s counsel will review medical and educational records as well as interview the family and the child’s teachers, therapists and doctors. After recommending a custody arrangement, the attorney will continue to represent the child until he or she is 18 or until the court determines advocacy is no longer needed. 

How should parents work with their child’s attorney? 

According to state law, minor’s counsel must receive reasonable access to the child and notice of all appointments and court proceedings that may influence custody. He or she must keep all information obtained from records and interviews confidential. The attorney will have the right to speak in official hearings on behalf of the child as well as express the minor’s custody preferences, if any. 

Who pays for minor’s counsel? 

Usually the court appoints one or both parents to pay the fees when referring them to minor’s counsel. However, some parents may qualify for assistance. 

California law requires the court to mandate minor’s counsel for high-conflict custody cases, when the child is under significant emotional stress, when either parent may be unable to provide a safe and healthy home environment and in the presence of special issues that require a knowledgeable person. The judge will also use minor’s counsel in the case of neglect or abuse accusations by either parent.