Appointment: Pursuant to California Rules of Court 5.240(a), In considering appointing counsel under Family Code section 3150, the court should take into account the following factors, including whether:
1. The issues of child custody and visitation are highly contested or protracted;
2. The child is subjected to stress as a result of the dispute that might be alleviated by the intervention of counsel representing the child;
3. Counsel representing the child would be likely to provide the court with relevant information not otherwise readily available or likely to be presented;
4. The dispute involves allegations of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect of the child.
5. It appears that one or both parents are incapable of providing a stable, safe, and secure environment;
6. Counsel is available for appointment who is knowledgeable about the issues being raised regarding the child in the proceeding;
7. The best interest of the child appears to require independent representation; and
8. If there are two or more children, any child would require separate counsel to avoid a conflict of interest.
Qualifications: In order to be eligible for appointment as Counsel for a Child, attorneys must have completed at least 12 hours of education and training in the subjects listed in California Rules of Court 5.242(c), and have complied with the experience requirements under the same rule. The attorney must confirm annually that she has met the education and experience requirement in order to be eligible for appointment.
Responsibilities: As Children’s Counsel, we must advocate for the best interests of the child above all else. We are the child’s attorney and not are not “hired” by either Parent or Party. If the child is of appropriate age and, or maturity, Children’s Counsel acts as the voice for the child in the court proceedings. Our relationship with our child-client is strictly confidential, just as it would be if we were representing an adult. This means that we are not permitted to repeat anything the child has told us unless that child consents to the disclosure.
As Children’s Counsel we hold privilege for the child and are thereby permitted to communicate freely and directly with any professionals involved with the child such as educators, doctors, therapists, or aides. We attend every court proceeding involving the custody of the child in order to advocate for the child’s best interests therein. We are not involved with matters of child support or reimbursements regarding children’s expenses.
Compensation: Payment for the cost of Children’s Counsel is solely up to the discretion of the Court. Pursuant to the local rules regarding billing practices for Children’s Counsel, we submit monthly invoices to the Parents or Parties in the case. When we have billed more than 10 hours on the case, or on a quarterly basis, whichever occurs sooner, we submit our unpaid invoices to the Court with an Application for Payment, wherein we request an allocation of responsibility for payment of our fees between the Parents or Parties and the Court, or in some combination thereof. At that time, the Parents or Parties will have 21 days during which they may respond to the requested allocation of responsibility for payment of our fees and submit that Response to the Court. 21 days after receiving our Application for Payment, the Court will decide, based on our Application, and each Party’s respective responses (if any) which Party (if any) has an ability to pay our fees. The Court may decide to assign responsibility of some of our fees to one or both Parents or Parties, or if the Court believes that neither Parent or Party has the ability to pay (or only has a partial ability to pay), the Court can order our fees to be paid in full or in part by the County, at the County’s reduced rates.