Courtrooms have an inherent nature that revolves around dispute and confrontation. This can make any legal proceeding a difficult and stressful situation. When it comes to family law, however, the process can become strictly disheartening. Cases involving divorce or child custody often end up tearing a family apart. All too often in these proceedings it is the interests of the adults involved who are looked out for. This has led many areas to pass statutes giving children what are known as ‘law guardians’. These individuals ensure a child’s best interests are served in family law proceedings.
What is a Law Guardian?
Law guardians are professional lawyers who are assigned to children that are involved in family law cases. An Orlando divorce lawyer explains that children are most likely to receive these guardians when their parents are involved in a divorce or in any other case in which the custody of the child has become an issue. This attorney works for neither of the parents, and his sole duty is to ensure that the legal rights and interests of the child he is representing are upheld. The lawyer listens to the child and is able to provide the court with an unbiased view of what actions would be in the best interests of the child.
Children actually have the option of choosing their own lawyer to be their law guardian. This obviously becomes somewhat of an issue since a child obviously cannot afford a lawyer on their own. Parents who are involved in these family law disputes are allowed to recommend lawyers and provide their payment, but once this is done, the parent has no control over the decisions made by the child or law guardian. These rules ensure that children can have competent legal representation without having to bend to the influence of their parents. When a law guardian cannot be retained by the child and parties of the case, the court can appoint one much like a public defender would be appointed.
Responsibilities of the Law Guardian
A law guardian has the obvious responsibility of representing the child’s best interests, but they must do this in a multitude of ways. These attorneys are bound to represent a minor throughout the proceedings for which they were appointed. Once the case in question is over, their duty usually ends with it. There are some statutes, however, that provide for ongoing representation from a lawyer. If a parent appeals a court’s decision, for instance, then the law guardian would continue their role without having to be appointed by the court again.
The law guardian must also have an active role in the proceedings that affect their child client. If the minor doesn’t feel as if their best interests are being looked out for by the attorney appointed to them during these proceedings, they actually have the right to fire that attorney or request a new law guardian from the court. This can at times become a hassle for the courts due to the attorney’s sometimes competing duties of taking the child’s wishes into account while also advocating for their best interests.
Law guardians were created by statute in order to ensure that children receive the representation they so often never get. It is a great evolution in a legal system that far too often depended on the wishes of whichever parent could prove their aptitude in a court of law; which was frequently the parent that could afford the most expensive lawyer. Law guardians ensure that children don’t become the unseen ghosts that are lost in the shuffle of adult quarrels.
This article was written by Georgina Clatworthy, a former law blog editor and mother of three. She is also a contributing writer for Katz and Phillips, an Orlando divorce lawyer team. As a firm they understand the need to ensure the best interests of children are met whilst divorce proceedings are underway.