Child Custody Article


What is a Court-Appointed Advisor and what is his or her function in a Family Law case?

You have a dispute with your child’s parent. One of you filed a petition or motion with the Court. The Court scheduled a Resolution Management Conference and at the conference, the Court tells you it is appointing a Court Advisor. Why? What happens now?

The Rules of Family Law Procedure provides for the appointment of a Child’s Attorney, Best Interest Attorney, or Court-Appointed Advisor. Each serves a different purpose. A Child’s Attorney or Best Interest Attorney act in a representative capacity – both participate in the case to the same extent as an attorney. On the other hand, a Court-Appointed Advisor is prohibited from taking any action that would only be permitted by a licensed attorney. However, a Court-Appointed Advisor can be especially helpful to the Court, in resolving disputes.

An order appointing a Court-Appointed Advisor must specifically state the reason for appointment, as well as the terms. For example, an Advisor is typically appointed in order to interview each party at their homes, review records – such as medical reports, school reports, emails or text messages, and police reports – speak to other interested parties, and often interview the minor child. The order will also state how the Court-Appointed Advisor will be compensated. Typically, the parties will be ordered to each pay 50% of the Court-Appointed Advisor’s fee, subject to reallocation. Therefore, the Court may order a party to pay a larger portion of the fee based on their unreasonable position, lack of cooperation, or other reason.

The Court-Appointed Advisor must have an opportunity to testify or to submit a report stating their recommendations regarding the best interest of the child and the basis for the recommendations. A Child’s Attorney or Best Interest Attorney are not allowed to testify or submit recommendations to the Court.

In order to qualify as a Court-Appointed Advisor, an individual must have received training or have experience in the type of proceeding in which they are appointed. Specifically, a Court-Appointed Advisor acts as more of a witness rather than a representative. The duties of a Court-Appointed Advisor are generally viewed as a witness or one who provides counsel or input. It is extremely important for you to cooperate with the Court-Appointed Advisor or comply with any requests of the Court-Appointed Advisor. You should treat the Court-Appointed Advisor with deference and respect. The recommendations of the Court-Appointed Advisor will be influenced by your cooperation and your honesty (or lack of) will likely be noted in the Court-Appointed Advisor’s report.

You, or your attorney, may question or cross-examine the Court-Appointed Advisor. However, it is important to remember that the Advisors appointed by the Court, appear before the judges often and are known to the Court. The Court views the Court-Appointed Advisor as an expert witness and relies on their recommendations.

A Court-Appointed Advisor may be especially helpful in a case where there are many factual disputes, an inability for the parties to cooperate, or the minor child is old enough to voice an opinion. Would a Court-Appointed Advisor be useful in your case? Possibly. It is important to consult with an attorney.

Contributing Attorney: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.


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QUESTIONS

  • My daughters father who has being in prison for 17 years is thrusting me with having custody of my child 7 days a week every other week. He is not on the birth certificate and has not been part of her life, she is now 5 months old, he asked me to abort when I told him I was pregnant. Will the court grant him custody. He was in prison for holding a family hostage.
  • Can a 13 year request not to stay with one parent 50% time and that be court ordered upon child’s request even if that parent is a fit parent? No current court order in place as parents have always agreed on time and money amongst themselves.
  • im filing for divorce from my husband whom i havent been with for the last 15 years, he is currently incarcerated and we have a 16 year old daughter together. we both still have custody of her however she wants to stay with her grandmother in safford. i still get her everything that she needs. i provide everything for her that she needs. do i have to sign over custody of her if i file for divorce instead of keeping things the way that we are currently doing it?
  • My wife's neice has died. She has a 4 year old daughter that is staying with her great grandma. The father, the grandma and other family members are not eligible for custody. We are the only family capable of providing a bright future for the young girl. Do we have a chance at custody? Or should we just let the events take place.
  • My girlfriend and I have two children together. I would like to gain custody of them since she has been experiencing mental health issues and cannot take care of the children.  I cannot afford a lawyer and have been told I cannot leave the state without her permission and was also told since the children's birth certificates establish I am the father and that they have my last name I can relocate with them. I can't get a straight answer !
  • My kids mother left the state and left our child with me now she wants to take her from me what rights do u have as the father when she left her in the first place ?
  • My ex broke up with me and kick me out the place we shared with our child. I had to move back to my home city which is in a different city then my child, and since our child is still in school I didn't want to move our child out of the school s/he went to. So had to leave my child with the dad. My child has stated that s/he wants to come live with me. So how do I get custody of my child.
  • My boyfriend is still married to his wife, they have 3 children together. A 6 year old girl, 5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. The mother has custody of them right now, but 4 months ago she told us she had no home for the kids to live in, no car, no job and could not take care of them. She gave us their birth certificates, social security cards, shot records everything! She has called 2-5 times in 4 months and only has seen them twice. We have put the two girls in school now and she has not helped us pay for anything. What can we do about the custody for them? Can we try for abandonment ?
  • My son and his former girlfriend have a 2 year old daughter. Paternity has been established. The girlfriend has been gone for over 2 weeks- she left the baby with the maternal grandmother. Does my son have a legal right to go and get his daughter. We now live in Georgia.
  • The mother of my child married a guy while she was carrying my child... My child has his last name how do I get legally right to my child or custody and change his last name to mine?

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