Representation of Children in Arizona Custody Cases
Whenever decisions about child custody aren’t made in an amicable way, a lengthy legal battle can ensue. In Arizona, the court makes decisions based on the child’s best interest. This being said, are children allowed to participate in the legal proceedings and if so, do children in Arizona custody cases get their representative?
Arizona Child Custody Procedurals
There have been a number of actual cases that involved petitions for children in Arizona custody cases to appear before court and present their point of view in terms of the child custody proceedings. After all, children are the one party that will be affected the most by an eventual decision. Some believe it makes sense for children to be heard on the matter of custody.
In one of the cases (Klahr v. Court of Appeals of State), the Arizona Supreme Court ruled out that children can partake in custody proceedings and be represented by an attorney. Such decisions have been made whenever it was believed that the child’s best interests weren’t represented in any other way.
Such decisions are more likely in highly contested child custody battles. Usually, a legal representative is appointed to protect the rights of the child (rather than to represent them as a party in court).
Depending on the specifics of the situation, a minor may also be interviewed by a child custody evaluator. Based on the information obtained during the interview, the evaluator could make recommendations aimed at establishing what the child’s best interest is.
The evaluator is not the lawyer of the child and their job is not to convey to the court what a minor may desire. Rather, the evaluator assesses the family dynamics and the relationship a child has with the parents to provide a recommendation pertaining to the eventual custody arrangement.
When Can Children Appear before the Court
According to Arizona Revised Statutes 25-403, custody decisions are made on the basis of the following:
- The wishes that the two parents have concerning the custody
- The preferences of the child
- The relationship that the child has with the two parents
- Whether living with one parent or the other will make more sense in terms of preventing significant changes in education, social circle, the lifestyle that the child is used to, etc.
- The mental and physical wellbeing of the two parents
- Whether any of the parents have previously been convicted of child abuse or neglect
- Whether one or both parent have provided primary care
There is one more important statute that pertains to child custody considerations – A.R.S. 25-405. According to the statute, a judge can interview a minor to establish the child’s wishes. Such an interview can be carried out during any stage of the custody proceedings.
When Is a Lawyer Appointed to a Child?
When two parents can eventually come to an agreement about the custody of a minor, there will be no need for a legal representative to be appointed to the child.
A parent, however, may ask for the legal representation of a minor in the case of child abuse or neglect. Whenever there are worries about the safety or the wellbeing of a child, a separate legal representative may be required.
In situations when questions arise about the paternity of children, it may also be appropriate to seek legal representation for minors. In such instances, the attorney will be once again tasked with making sure that the rights and the interests of a child are protected.
As a parent, you have the right to ask the court to appoint a legal representative to your minor children. It will be up to the court to approve the request or turn it down. Before moving forward with custody proceedings, you should definitely consult an experienced family law attorney in Arizona. This legal professional will let you know whether your kids will benefit from separate legal representation.