What are the rules for an ‘Attorney for the Child’ in New York?
Many parents are understandably nervous about having an attorney appointed for their child. We are used to controlling who has access to our kids. Period. In this particular respect, the appointment of an Attorney for the Child (AFC, for short), is a real infringement by the Court on what we consider to be a basic right… protecting our kids by controlling who has access to them.
Parents sometimes become angry when they find that their child’s AFC went to the school and talked to the child without the parent present. Parents are often angry to learn that sometimes the AFC has no interest at all in talking to the parents, or that the AFC spent more time with one parent over the other, or that the AFC is looking at school records and health records of the child without so much as talking to the parents! “Surely,” we think, “there must be some rules about what this AFC can do?”
There are rules, but not rules that parents typically like. The best way to think about an AFC is by thinking about what they actually are… an attorney who represents your child. The AFC doesn’t represent you, or your spouse. They are singularly focused on representing your child. If your child is too young to make decisions for herself, the AFC is allowed to substitute their own judgment and advocate for what they believe is in the child’s best interest.
To look at it another way: your lawyer doesn’t spend much time talking to your kids because your lawyer wants to know what you want… not what the kids want. Same with an AFC. They might think that they can get good information by talking to your child in a neutral place (like school), or by talking to teachers or health care providers. AFC’s are given broad access to your child by the law and the Courts. The AFC’s access comes without your assistance, influence, or permission… and parents hate it. AFC’s are issued court orders allowing them to go to the child’s school for meetings with the child and whoever else might be helpful… teachers, counselors, school psychologists.
As a parent, you might not like the authority and influence an AFC wields. Try to keep your distaste to yourself. An AFC is the only lawyer in chambers without an agenda tied to the equitable distribution of assets. Judges tend to trust AFC’s because (for starters) the judge appointed them, and because the AFC isn’t pursuing money. That is why getting on the bad side of an AFC is like getting on the bad side of a judge… it can only hurt you.
If an Attorney for the Child has been appointed in your case, and if you need representation of your own, contact us to schedule a meeting. We charge a flat rate for initial consultations so that we can meet, discuss your case, and talk about a strategy. (585) 485-0025