A child custody attorney is appointed whenever a minor is abused, adoption, termination of parental rights, juvenile proceedings, contested child custody proceeding and visitation rights.
The responsibilities of a child advocate attorney include:
- Meet with the child to establish a relationship with him/ her. Use simple language while asking questions to the child. Irrespective of the age of the child, the lawyer should visit before the court hearing.
- Carrying out thorough investigations that should include assessing the child’s psychiatric, psychological, medical, school and other records. Interview people related to the child, such as school personnel, caretaker, neighbors, relatives, coach, physicians, and other possible witness.
- Counsel the child about the issues related to litigation, the rights of the child, the advocate’s role and what to expect in the legal process.
- To be present during every court proceeding and negotiations.
- Procure all the necessary records related to the child and parents.
- Receive notice of all the court documents.
- Request for hearings. Usually the child support should be present at court hearings, despite of whether the child will testify.
- The lawyer will decide if the child will testify only after considering the child’s needs to testify and the repercussion of testifying.
- Present evidence that would support the case.
- Highlighting the wishes of the child before the court appropriately or request appointment of a guardian. The lawyer should look for suitable services, such as sibling and family visitation, health care, parenting education, etc. A child with special needs should get apt services that address the physical, mental and developmental disabilities.
- Inform other parties that he/ she is representing the case and needs reasonable notification beforehand in case of change of placements, changes in circumstances affecting the child and the family.
- Ensure the case is not delayed unnecessarily.
- Plan out a strategy to deal with the case and share it with the parent.
- In terms of a juvenile court proceeding, the advocate will coordinate with community agencies and other resources to obtain the necessary details.
- The child’s attorney should file petitions or motions that include, mental and physical examination of the child, visitation evaluation, a change of placement, contempt for non-compliance, termination of parent-child relationship, request services for child, child support.
- After the hearing, the child’s attorney should assess the court orders and discuss the result and consequences with the child. The lawyer should keep an eye on the implementation of the court’s order and contact the appropriate agency in case of any non-cooperation.
Remember to discuss these responsibilities when hiring a child custody lawyer for your child’s case.