In contentious child custody cases, California may appoint an attorney called a minor’s counsel. He or she serves as a neutral party to represent the child’s best interests during the court proceedings.

Review the role of the minor’s counsel and how this person takes part in the custody process.

Appointment of minor’s counsel

The court may appoint a minor’s counsel in cases involving extended disagreement on custody, allegations of child abuse or neglect, significant stress on the child as a result of the proceedings, or the inability of either parent to provide a stable home environment. In addition, either parent or his or her attorney can ask for minor’s counsel. The child, any family member of the child, a guardian ad litem or court advocate, or an attorney the state can also make this request.

Role of minor’s counsel

The attorney hired as the minor’s counsel primarily determines the custody arrangement that will best support the child’s health and well-being. He or she will also advocate for the child’s custody preferences depending on age and maturity.

The minor’s counsel will interview the child and gather information from others who know the child well, such as teachers, therapists, other family members and health care providers. He or she will also have access to school and medical records while investigating the case.

The parents must give permission for the child to speak alone with his or her court-appointed attorney. In addition, parents may not discuss any aspects of the custody case with their children. The minor’s counsel represents only the child, not the parent’s interests.