What Is An Attorney For Children In Family Law Cases?
In family law, child custody is determined based on what state law dictates is in the best interest of the child, which involves a number of specific factors that the court weighs. Some of these cases can, in some circumstances, involve what’s known as an Attorney for Children (AFC), which is a court appointed attorney or other individual (such as a mental health professional) who is tasked with assisting the court in determining what is in the child’s best interest.
Some have likened AFCs with private investigators for the court in that they are tasked with conducting an independent assessment of the facts with respect to family law cases. Judges will in some cases request an opinion from the AFC, as they are there to serve as an advocate on the child’s behalf. AFCs will sometimes visit the child’s home and school, and speak with individuals in the child’s life, and can affect custody and visitation determinations in these cases.
Under New York law, an AFC can be appointed by the court or by motion of:
- The infant party (if they are over the age of 14)
- A committee of the property, conservator, friend, guardian, or relative
- Any party to the action, under some circumstances
When a court uses an AFC in a family law case, it is often when there are special concerns involved for the child and/or their home life, such as child abuse or neglect. The AFC’s work largely depends upon the specifics of the case at hand; for example, they could be tasked with examining the child’s entire living circumstances, or only very specific issues, such as substance abuse by one or both parents.
When they are examining the overall circumstances of a child’s life, they will often look at:
- Home stability
- Cooperation abilities for both parents
- Mental health for both parents
- Any criminal history and/or violence
They will typically assemble their recommendations in the form of a report submitted to the court and the parties are required to pay a fee for the service.
New York Family Law Attorneys
Anytime you are dealing with child custody issues with divorce, you want to work with a family law attorney in order to ensure that your family and your child’s best interests are truly served in the proceedings and final arrangements. Although they are presumably there with children’s best interests at heart, AFCs obviously do not know your child as well as you do.
If an AFC has been appointed in your case, your attorney can also assist you in terms of working with the AFC in order to come to the best outcome for your child. Contact our dedicated Rockland and Westchester County child custody attorneys at the Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine, P.C. to find out more about our services.