People often hear the term Law Guardian and are immediately confused as to what that role entails. The role of a Law Guardian in Family Court is to act as the attorney for the child or children involved and to look out for their best interests.
In New York, the term Law Guardian has been replaced by “Attorney for the Child(ren)” in what I assume is an attempt to avoid said confusion as to what the job entails. However, much like die hard defunct names such as “The Pepsi Arena” and “World Wresting Federation,” the Law Guardian moniker will in all likelihood be used for quite some time.
In every case that is filed in Family Court, no matter how adverse or amicable, the children involved automatically get assigned a Law Guardian. This often confuses and concerns parents, especially when the parties are going to court just to amend an order or amicably change certain mutually agreed upon arrangements. In instances such as this, there is no need to be alarmed because, as stated, when filing in Family Court, an Attorney for the Child is attached to the case. This is so the child has their own separate legal advocate that is not potentially biased toward the mother, father, or other interested parties.
The Law Guardian, although not officially a mediator, often acts as a go between among the parties in an attempt to come to some sort of resolution that is in the best interest of the children. A Law Guardian will make it very clear at the onset of the case that they are the child’s lawyer, not mom or dad’s. Anything the mother, father, or other interested parties say to the Law Guardian may be used against them in court. Anything that is discussed between the children and the Law Guardian is to be confidential and does not have to be disclosed to the mother, father, or interested parties.
Once the case is set down for a first appearance in Family Court, the Law Guardian is assigned to the applicable children. The Attorney for the Children often sends a letter to all parties involved introducing themselves. It is required that the Law Guardian meets with the children for an initial interview. This is required regardless of the age of the child. Clearly, a child 6 months old will not be able to carry on a conversation like a 16 year old would, but never the less, an initial interview is to be conducted. These interviews are typically conducted with age appropriate dialogue and are usually not that invasive to the child. As a Law Guardian myself, I try to make the client interviews as comfortable as possible for the children, as they are often understandably upset and uncomfortable about their current family circumstances.
The parties then meet at Family Court for a first appearance and the case is heard before the judge. The children, unless special circumstances exist, do not appear in the courtroom. The Law Guardian appears and advocates on their behalf.
For further information regarding Family Court proceedings, contact the Family Court located in the county in which your children reside.
(Picture Credit: http://www.legalguardianchildcare.com)