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Attorneys for Children in Family Law Disputes

Oftentimes, in custody and visitation proceedings in New York State, an attorney is appointed for the child in question in order to represent and advocate for the child’s best interests. Attorneys for children, referred to as Law Guardians, are generally lawyers with experience in custody matters and are appointed by the court in custody and visitation disputes in which the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding these arrangements.

In order to discern the child’s best interests, Law Guardians speak to the child in question, and can also communicate with either or both the parents, school employees, a child’s therapist, the forensic examiner, or anyone else necessary for obtaining information related to the child’s case. If the child is too young to discuss his or her desires with the attorney, the Law Guardian can argue the position that he or she feels is in the best interests of the child.

Law Guardians are often critiqued for aligning themselves with one parent, which can lead to them acting as a second attorney for that parent. It is important for parents to remember that their child’s attorney is not intended to be a second lawyer for them, but rather, to strictly be an advocate for their child’s best interests. Another common criticism is that young children do not understand what custody arrangement is best for them, because they cannot assess their family’s situation adequately at such a young age.

The New York State Appellate Division, Fourth Department, issued guidelines for attorneys for children in 2008, for both family and Supreme Court proceedings. These guidelines outline ethics and procedures Law Guardians should follow. Ultimately, attorneys for children can serve as effective advocates for children, particularly if taking these guidelines and criticisms into account when arguing their position on each case.


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The New York court requires that divorcing spouses attend a preliminary conference, at which the parties try to decide occupancy of the marital home, daily care for any children and payment of expenses. At the conference, the spouses also discuss exchanging of the following information that includes net worth statements, appraisals of pensions and real estate, interrogatories (formal written questions), and the taking of depositions.
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