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What is a Minor’s Counsel

When it comes to child custody, the well-being of the child is the court’s number one priority. This is why in some cases a judge may deem it necessary to appoint an attorney to represent the interests of a child in custody disputes if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. This is known as Minor’s Counsel. California Rule 5.242(b) outlines the circumstances under which the court may appoint Minor’s counsel, emphasizing the necessity of such an appointment when it serves the best interests of the child in custody disputes and other family law matters. 

What makes the court appoint a minor’s counsel?

Factors include the complexity of the case, the child’s age, and specific needs. Some reasons a court might appoint a lawyer for a minor are:

High-Conflict Situations: When the parents are unable to communicate effectively and constructively about the child’s welfare.

Allegations of Abuse or Neglect: If there are allegations of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by one or both parents.

Complex  Issues: In cases where there are complex psychological, educational, or medical issues involved that require specialized understanding.

Special Needs: When the child has special needs that require careful consideration in custody arrangements.

In these cases a judge might determine a minor needs their own counsel to ensure that the child’s best interests are adequately represented and considered by the court by providing an independent voice for the child, especially when the child is of an age and maturity where their preferences should be considered but cannot effectively advocate for themselves.

What Does a Minor’s Counsel Do?

 Minor’s counsel is an attorney who provides a child with independent legal representation to ensure the child’s voice and preferences are heard in court. They are responsible for advocating for the child’s best interests, which may include interviewing the child, parents, and other relevant parties, as well as reviewing pertinent documents and records, submitting independent reports and recommendations to the court and  providing updates on the child’s well-being.

To ensure a minor’s counsel can represent the minor effectively, California Family Code Section 3151 and California Rule of Court 5.242 grant a minor’s counsel full participation in court proceedings, where they present and challenge evidence, make motions, and submit briefs and reports. They have the right to access all relevant information and records about the child, including educational, medical, and psychological records, and can obtain reports from social workers, therapists, and other professionals.

 Additionally, Minor’s Counsel conducts independent investigations, which may include home visits to assess living conditions and parental interactions.  They also may request additional evaluations like psychological assessments or home studies to fully understand the child’s needs and circumstances.

How is a Minor’s Counsel Chosen?

The court appoints a Minor’s Counsel either on its own initiative or at the request of a party or the child. This ensures an impartial selection process that prioritizes the child’s needs over parental preferences. The appointed attorney must meet specific qualifications outlined in Rule 5.242, which include expertise and training in family law, child development, and child custody and visitation issues. The court’s goal is to appoint a counsel who can independently and impartially advocate for the child’s best interests.

Qualifications of Minor’s Counsel

Rule 5.242(c) specifies the required qualifications for attorneys appointed as Minor’s Counsel, including:

  • Minimum training and education requirements.
  • Experience in family law, child development, and related areas.
  • Familiarity with judicial processes and issues involved in representing children.

Initial Training Attorneys must complete at least 12 hours of initial education and training in subjects relevant to representing children in custody and visitation cases.

Continuing Education Attorneys must complete at least 8 hours of continuing education every three years in the areas listed above. This ongoing education ensures that Minor’s Counsel remains current with developments in child advocacy, legal standards, and best practices.

Certification and Documentation Before being appointed as Minor’s Counsel, attorneys must provide certification to the court that they have met the training and education requirements. They may also be required to submit documentation of their training and continuing education to demonstrate compliance with Rule 5.242.

Can I be there when the Minor’s Counsel Speaks to my child?

Communication with the child is a key responsibility, which is why California Family Code Section 3151(b) specifically allows the counsel to meet and talk with the child without the presence of parents or other parties. It also stipulates that Minor’s counsel is bound by confidentiality requirements. This ensures the child can speak freely and that sensitive information is used solely for the purpose of advocating for the child’s best interests in the legal proceedings.

Do I Have To Participate in an interview by the Minor’s Counsel?

While there may not be a specific law mandating participation, generally,  Courts expect parents to cooperate with Minor’s counsel, if requested, to ensure a thorough investigation and representation of the child’s best interests. This participation is seen as part of the effort to act in the child’s best interests, providing Minor’s counsel with a complete picture of the child’s living situation and relationships. Refusal to participate can be viewed unfavorably by the court, potentially influencing custody decisions. Furthermore, if a parent refuses to participate, Minor’s counsel can request the court to order the parent to comply.

If you have concerns about the interview, you can ask for clarification on the scope and nature of the interview questions to ensure they are appropriate and relevant. However, you should always consult with your child custody attorney in these situations as non-cooperation could negatively impact your case.

Who Pays for Minor’s Counsel?

When it comes to covering the costs of Minor’s Counsel, the responsibility typically falls on the parents. However, the specifics can vary based on the circumstances of each case and the court’s discretion.

In general, the court orders the parents to bear the costs associated with Minor’s Counsel. The court considers each parent’s financial circumstances and ability to pay when dividing these costs. This approach ensures that the payment responsibility is fair and equitable, reflecting the financial resources of both parents.

For example, if one parent earns significantly more than the other, the court might order the higher-earning parent to pay a larger portion or even the entire cost of Minor’s Counsel. Conversely, if both parents have similar financial standings, the costs might be split equally. This approach ensures that the child’s legal representation is maintained without causing undue financial strain on either parent.

Parents facing financial hardship have the option to request a fee waiver or adjustment. If they can demonstrate their inability to pay, the court may consider reducing the fees or allocating them differently based on the parents’ financial situation.

In situations where the parents are unable to pay and the court deems it necessary to appoint Minor’s Counsel for the child’s best interests, the court may allocate funds from court resources or other available funds to cover the costs. This ensures that the child receives the necessary legal representation even when parental financial support is insufficient.

Occasionally, other parties involved in the custody proceedings may be considered for contributing to the payment of Minor’s Counsel. If these parties have a vested interest in the case, the court might order them to share in the costs.

Can I have Minor’s Counsel Removed?

  • If parents believe that Minor’s counsel is not acting in the best interest of the child or is biased, they have the right to request the removal or replacement of the counsel. This typically involves filing a motion and presenting valid reasons for the request.

What if the Minor’s Counsel is Against Me?

Parents have the right to be informed of the findings and recommendations made by Minor’s counsel. This includes receiving copies of reports and having the opportunity to review and respond to them in court. If you do not agree with Minor’s Counsel, you can challenge their actions and recommendations and present counter-evidence or alternative proposals. It is important to have a skilled family law attorney on your side in situations like this, as judges give considerable weight to a Minor’s Counsel’s recommendations.

Minor’s Counsel plays a pivotal role in child custody cases, ensuring that the child’s best interests are represented throughout the legal proceedings and serving as a crucial voice for your child. They help the court make decisions that prioritize the child’s well-being when the case is extremely complicated or high conflict. If you’re going through a Child Custody Case, you will need a A skilled attorney that can guide you through the process, advocate for your child’s needs, and ensure that their best interests are at the forefront of every decision.  Contact Jafari Law and Mediation Office for a consultation today to secure the support and representation your family deserves.


No, the role and responsibilities of Minor’s Counsel can vary significantly from state to state. While the general principle of representing the child’s best interests is common, specific duties, qualifications, and rights of Minor’s Counsel are defined by each state’s laws and court rules. It is important to understand the specific regulations in your jurisdiction.

Yes, Minor’s Counsel can represent multiple children in the same family if it is in the best interests of the children. However, if there is a conflict of interest between the children’s positions or needs, separate counsel may be appointed for each child.

During home visits, Minor’s Counsel assesses the living conditions, interactions between the child and parents, and the overall environment. Parents should expect a professional but thorough evaluation aimed at understanding the child’s daily life and well-being.

While both Minor’s Counsel and a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) represent the child’s best interests, Minor’s Counsel acts as the child’s attorney, providing legal representation and advocacy. A GAL, on the other hand, is typically a court-appointed advocate who investigates and reports on the child’s best interests without necessarily providing legal representation.

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