Does The Court Have To Follow The Recommendation Of The Child's Attorney

During a contested custody case, parent relocation case or parenting schedule case the Judge does not have to follow the recommendation of the attorney for the children (AFC). In every case if there is a conference or trial the decision belongs solely to the judge. The judge may be influenced by the AFC's advocacy on behalf of the child (client) or may be influenced by the child's direct wishes. More often than not the judge will accept the AFC's recommendation or make minor adjustments to it. However, it is up to the judge to weigh all of the many factors that go into making such a decision and not to just "rubber stamp" the AFC's request.

For instance, the AFC may have to advocate for what the child wants, but perhaps the judge thinks that the child's preferences have been inappropriately influenced by one of the parents. Perhaps the judge thinks that the rights of both parents have to be equally protected and the judge is not convinced that one parent should have less or different time with the child. So the AFC might be opposed to a mid-week overnight and the judge feels that under the unique circumstances of a particular case the child will be fine with the overnight. Maybe the non-custodial parent is very involved in the extra-curricular activities, maybe the non-custodial parent is an excellent homework helper, maybe the non-custodial parent lives close to the child's school, maybe the bond between the parent and the child is very strong. So there could be many reasons why the judge may decide to do it differently than following the recommendation/request of the AFC.

The key to these decisions is to have excellent advocacy and to have all relevant and related testimony and documents ready to support the request. For example, it could be school report cards, medical records, awards certificates, pictures of the home, ability to have witnesses available to testify with personal knowledge of the relationship between the parent and child such as teachers and coaches and lists of activities that the parent and child attend together. The list is endless as long as it is supportive of the request. Likewise, if there is proof of custodial interference, missed or cancelled visits, bad mouthing the other parent, poor school performance, poor diet, poor interaction with other house residents this information will also be important.

Ultimately the standard that the court is to apply is "best interests of the child".  One of the most important factors in that determination is whether both parents are supportive of the child's right to have two loving and involved parents.  If one parent is determined to wrongfully interfere with the child's right to love two parents while the other parent is supportive of that right, the supportive parent may ultimately prevail even if some of the other factors are less in that parent's favor.  The right to have a relationship with both parents will often "trump" other factors.