In a custody dispute, either within a Supreme Court Action for Divorce or in Family Court, the court has the option to appoint an attorney to represent your child and his or her interests. “Attorneys for Children” are chosen from a panel of attorneys qualified to represent minors and are generally paid for their services by the State of New York.
The function of the Attorney for the Child is to zealously advocate the child’s position. To do so, the attorney must consult with and advise the child consistent with the child’s age and intellectual and emotional capacities. The Attorney for the Child must have a thorough knowledge of the child’s circumstances.
The Attorney for the Child must explain to the child all of the options available to the child and is permitted to make recommendations to the child regarding what the attorney believes to be in the child’s best interests. Assuming the child has the proper capacity, and all of his or her feelings and preferences are voluntary and conveyed with considered judgment, the Attorney for the Child must report the wishes of the child to the court. This is so even if the attorney does not agree that the child’s preferences are in the child’s best interests.
If the Attorney for the Child is convinced either that the child lacks the capacity for knowing, voluntary and considered judgment, or that following the child’s wishes is likely to result in a substantial risk of imminent, serious harm to the child, the Attorney for the Child may advocate a position to the court that is contrary to the child’s wishes. Under such circumstances, the Attorney for the Child must nevertheless inform the court of the child’s articulated wishes, if the child wants the attorney to do so.