In some divorce proceedings, child custody battles are a complex and emotionally overwhelming ordeal. Both parties may not agree on what’s in the best interests of the minor children, which can be extremely problematic.
If this is the case, third parties are commonly called upon to assist the court in determining the child’s best interests. That doesn’t mean a child will conduct the hiring; rather, the court may appoint a lawyer to serve in several capacities.
The following are the three types of legal representation afforded to children in a divorce case:
- Child attorney - A lawyer is an advocate for the child, meaning he/she must follow their client’s wishes regardless of the attorney’s personal opinion. In other words, a child’s attorney must represent his/her client’s best interests as defined by the client (child). However, since children are not always well equipped to determine what is in their best interest, these types of lawyers are quite rare.
- Child representative - A child representative is a lawyer who is hired to represent a minor child’s best interests; however, he/she represents the child’s best interests without the child having ultimate authority. As opposed to child attorneys, child representatives are obligated to reduce conflict by encouraging settlement, mediation, and by disclosing his/her position in the case’s pretrial stage. They are given the same investigative abilities as a guardian ad litem.
- Guardian ad litem - This type of attorney will perform an investigation into the minor child’s best interests and give a report to the court. He/she will interview the child and the child’s parents, as well as investigate the suitability of the child’s home environment. The guardian ad litem may be called as a witness for cross-examination and recommendation purposes.