Does your child need a lawyer?

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1 This information can help you if a divorce, custody or visitation case is pending in a Connecticut court and you and the other parent disagree about custody or visitation rights. If your child is involved in a Juvenile Court case, (abuse/ neglect, delinquency or Family with Service Needs), a judge will automatically appoint a lawyer for your child or you can hire one. Does your child need a lawyer? The first thing to remember is this: You have the right to ask a judge to appoint a lawyer for your child. The judge will decide if a lawyer will be appointed or not. If you and the child s other parent agree on everything concerning custody or visitation of the child, you won t need to ask for a lawyer for your child. You may want to ask for a lawyer for your child if: -you and the other parent disagree on custody or visitation; or -you are concerned about the safety of your child, child abuse, or domestic violence, etc; or -there is a question about the child s paternity. A judge may: -appoint a lawyer without either party requesting one. -send the case to Family Services (sometimes called Family Relations) for an evaluation. Or instead of asking for (or hiring) a lawyer you may want to: -ask for an evaluation from Family Services (as an alternative to the expense of lawyer). Family Services will meet with the child or observe the child with the parents. Family Services will try to do what is in the best interests of the child. What would your child s lawyer do? The judge will appoint a person who is a lawyer as either attorney or Guardian-ad-litem (GAL). Ask the judge which one will be appointed for your child. If the lawyer is appointed as Guardian ad litem (GAL), he or she will tell the court what he/she thinks is in the best interests of a child. If the lawyer is appointed as attorney, he/she will work in court to represent what your child wants. The attorney has a dual role not only represent the wishes of a child but also serve the best interests of the child. The attorney will usually take more of a GAL role if the child is very young and more of an advocacy role if the child is older.

2 In either role, the goal of the best interests of the child is sought. Each may make recommendations to both sides about how to resolve the conflict to meet the child s needs and/or wishes. The lawyer may do any (or all) of the following: -meet with your child in the child s home, at least once (more if necessary) and learn the child s feelings, wishes, and beliefs; -meet with you, the other parent, teachers, daycare providers, doctors and others who are familiar with the child as part of the lawyer s evaluation of the case and your child s situation; - meet with the child in the home of the non-custodial parent; -review all medical records and reports related to the case; -seek physical or mental health evaluations when appropriate; -participate in hearings in the case that are related to your child; -maintain contact with your child until the case is over. You should: -make the child available to the lawyer and keep appointments; -sign releases for information sharing; -remember that the lawyer is not a social worker and cannot deal with every problem; he/she cannot make parental decisions. Note: you will be charged for all contacts with the child s lawyer (unless the court has ordered that the lawyer to be paid at state rates). -know that the lawyer will use his/her own judgment and may not agree with you on issues concerning your child. Remember, the lawyer represents your child not you. Who pays for my child s lawyer? Both parents are usually responsible for paying the child s legal fees, with the cost split according to each parent s ability to pay. If the court decides that the parties are unable to pay the fees, the court may order the State to pay the fees. Ultimately, each parent is responsible for any legal fees from this process. Legal fees are based on the time a lawyer spends on the case. You will be charged for all contacts with the child s lawyer. How do I ask for a lawyer to be appointed? Fill out and file with the court certain paperwork. You can get most forms at the court clerk s office and on the State s judicial website (www.jud.ct.gov)

3 *** Fill out your Motion to ask for a lawyer to be appointed. -If your case if still pending and no final orders have been issues by the court, fill out and file a Motion for Orders before Judgment (form JD-FM-176) -If final orders have been issued, you have two Motions to file. Fill out and file a Motion for Modification (form JD-FM-174) before filing a Motion for the Appointment of Counsel for Minor Children (see attached form to this document). The first Motion is needed because there must be a pending court case before the court can appoint a lawyer for your child. If final orders were issued, you will have to pay a fee to open the case. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. (Ask the court clerk for help) *** Fill out an appearance (form JD-CL-12) if you have not yet done so. Make a copy. The clerk cannot accept your Motion unless you have filed an appearance. *** Make copies of your Motion(s) for everyone in the case, including every lawyer. After you send out the copies, go to the court where your case is pending and file your Motion with the clerk. ***When you get the hearing notice from the court in the mail, write down the date and time of the hearing. The notice will be a court calendar. To find the hearing date and time, first look for a number on the envelope above your address. This number is the position number of your case on the calendar. Second, find your name on the calendar and note the column number at the bottom of the paper. (The court clerk may need the column number later). Third, follow the instructions at the top of the calendar on the first page. Some instructions will tell you to call the court and the other party by a certain date to say you want to go ahead with your Motion. ***Fill out and file a Financial Affidavit (form JD-FM-6). The judge will need to review this form to make orders for paying the lawyer s fees for the child.

4 DOCKET NO.: (Plaintiff s name) VS. (Defendant s name) :SUPERIOR COURT :JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF : AT : (Date) MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL FOR MINOR CHILDREN I,, respectfully represent: 1. The above captioned matter, pending in this court, concerns a minor child/children. 2. Child custody and/or visitation and/or Is currently in dispute. 3. It is in the best interest of the minor child/children that an attorney be appointed to represent the minor child/children. WHEREFORE,, respectfully requests that an attorney be appointed to represent the minor child/children in this matter. THE PLAINTIFF/DEFENDANT By, (name) (street address) (city, state, zip)

5 ORDER The above motion having been considered, Attorney is appointed Attorney / Guardian Ad Litem for the minor child/children. The fees for the Attorney / Guardian Ad Litem for the minor child shall be paid as follows: THE COURT By: (Judge/Clerk) Date: CERTIFICATION I hereby certify that a copy of the above motion was mailed on to all counsel and pro se parties of record. (List all persons to whom you mailed this motion) (Your Signature)

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