What If I Disagree With The Attorney For The Child

The role of the Attorney For The Child ("AFC") is not an easy one in contested divorce and custody cases. The job description is simple to represent the interests of the client, the child. Of course, that can become complicated for many reasons including: the child is too young to communicate preferences, wishes and relate past events; the child may be manipulated and not realize the impact on their parenting preferences; the parents may be in such high conflict that consensus is difficult even on minor issues.

In a perfect or somewhat perfect world, the parents will come up with their own custody/parenting agreement and schedule and perhaps just need guidance on the finer points of vacations, travel, passports and decision making. However, there are cases where the parents agree on virtually nothing other than who are the birth parents. They disagree on sole (legal) vs. joint custody, parenting schedules, holiday schedules, major decision making on education, religion and medical issues, attendance and participation in extra-curricular activities, pick-up and drop off location, who transports to pick-up and drop off location and so the disagreements can seem endless.

Parents often think that the AFC should do what they want rather than what the child who is the CLIENT of the AFC wants. There are very specific guidelines as to when the AFC must advocate for the wishes of their client and when they can "substitute judgment" and explain why they do not think the client's (child's) preferences should be advocated.

If you disagree with the AFC, keep in mind that it is entirely possible that the AFC might even agree with you but the child client has a different preference. The child may feel closer to one parent even though the other parent may appear to be the better parent whether because of resources, health, family environment, residence location or many other factors that might influence a court but are not what the child wants.

It is best not to be antagonistic with the AFC as that may only harden the resolve to advocate stronger for the client to insulate them from an overbearing or abusive parent. It is ok to provide the AFC with your concerns and information that may be helpful in their discussions with their client. For example, if the child neglects to consider which parent is home and takes care of the child when sick or which parent makes sure that they get to see the other parent. You can provide the AFC with pictures that are supportive of your relationship and environment with the child.

The AFC can be very helpful in resolving disputes while still not revealing the details of their confidential communications with their client. The AFC can indicate how strong or weak the client's preferences are. The AFC can indicate from their experience how the judge responds in similar situations in the past. They can indicate the type of schedule the child prefers. They can indicate how the child would like to spend summer recess. They can make suggestions as to how to implement decision making and communication between the parents.

So the AFC can be open to receiving much information in a positive way that supports resolution vs. litigation and compromise. Of course if all fails and there is a trial, the AFC will have the right to cross-examine the parents when they testify and to call witnesses on behalf of their client.