In many legal actions, the child has little say about custody or other determinations, especially when at a young age. However, there is a program in New York called the New York Attorneys for Children Program, which provides attorneys to children when they are involved in court proceedings dealing with juvenile delinquency, child custody, visitation, and child protection.
Is a guardian ad litem an attorney for a child?
Guardian ad litem is a term that many people may know about, but an attorney for a child is not the same as a guardian ad litem. First of all, a guardian ad litem may be but does not have to be a lawyer. Also, the role of a guardian ad litem is to recommend to the court what is in the child’s best interests. An attorney for a child actually advocates what the child wishes and protects the child’s interests, just as an attorney would for any client. They are the child’s voice in the legal system. According the Ethics for Attorneys for Children, certain ethical rules apply, such as not being allowed to disclose privileged information without the child’s approval and the child’s protection against communications with parties without having counsel present.
Because children often lack knowledge or the ability to know and understand facts, situations may arise where the lawyer believes that doing what the child wants could be harmful for the child. In such situations, attorneys are justified in advocating against the child’s requests. However, if the child wants the attorney to inform the court of their wishes, the attorney must do so regardless of taking a different stance.
If you have questions about family law, divorce, or children’s rights consult an experienced New York family law attorney for answers.