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Utah Divorce Code 30-3-11.2

Utah Divorce Code 30-3-11.2

30-3-11.2. Appointment of counsel for child

If, in any action before any court of this state involving the custody or support of a child, it shall appear in the best interests of the child to have a separate exposition of the issues and personal representation for the child, the court may appoint counsel to represent the child throughout the action, and the attorney’s fee for such representation may be taxed as a cost of the action.

What is Minor’s Counsel?

Minor’s Counsel is an attorney appointed by the court to represent a child or children. Minor’s Counsel only represents the child and does not represent the parents in any capacity. In most Utah child custody cases, minors are rarely allowed to testify in court or speak to the judge directly. Because of this fact, the court will appoint minor’s counsel to interview the child about their concerns and their custodial preference. Minor’s counsel is a neutral voice for the child, without compromising the child’s rights, emotional well-being, or forcing the child to side with one parent or the other. Their role is to consider what is the best interest of the child, while not being bound by emotions that often come with divorce, child abuse, neglect, and other difficult issues often associated with contested child custody or divorce cases Minor’s counsel only represents the child. If there is more than one child involved, separate counsel for each child may be appointed.

The county might pay for the representation if the parents can’t afford to pay themselves but usually the court requires one or both parents to pay the fees. Once assigned, the attorney continues to represent the minor until the child reaches the age of 18. In some cases, the court may choose to end their appointment early. Minor’s counsel is a neutral voice for the child, without compromising the child’s rights, emotional well-being, or forcing the child to side with one parent or the other. In Utah, a private attorney may be appointed to represent a minor in Family Law cases involving child abuse, child neglect, drug related cases, high conflict divorces and other cases the court deems appropriate. Requests for appointment of minor’s counsel are usually made by court-appointed mediators or evaluators, either parent or even the court itself. Minor’s counsel only represents the child and not the parents. In some cases, where more than one child is involved, separate counsel for each child, may be appointed. The county may pay for the representation but usually the pay in Family Law cases is minimal or non-existent. Any information provided to the minor’s counsel by parents, mental health providers or other collateral sources, is subject to review by the court with the exception of privileged information.

Once assigned, they continue to represent the minor until the child reaches majority or is substituted by other counsel. Occasionally, minor’s counsel may be removed by the court. Minor’s counsel acts as fact finders and their requests for action to the court are often heavily weighed. Their requests are based on the child’s best interests including the health, safety and welfare of the child. Minor’s counsel may gather information from interviews with the child and parents, therapists, doctors, school records, medical records, psychological evaluations and any other record that provides relevant information as to the child’s needs. In some cases, minor’s counsel may express the child’s wishes to the court.

What does minor’s counsel do exactly?

Minor’s counsel act as fact finders. They learn about the child’s best interests including the health, safety, and welfare of the child. They will gather information from interviews with the child, the parents, therapists, and doctors. They will also evaluate school and medical records, psychological evaluations, and any other record that provides relevant information pertaining to the child’s needs. Minor’s counsel is entrusted with rights in order to protect the child’s best interests

Some of these rights are as follows:
• Reasonable access to the minor;
• Seeking relief on behalf of the minor;
• Notices of proceedings and all phases of the proceeding, including requests for examinations that may affect the minor;
• The right to interview individuals and review records relating to medical, dental, psychological, school, case workers, service providers, or any other individual that has cared for the child;
• Required to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the law;
• The right to be given notice of, to seek or refuse independent medical and psychological exams, for the purpose of the proceedings, unless court ordered;
• The right to be provided all court filings and documents and to file proceedings and respond on behalf of the minor;
• Monitor advocates, parents, counselors, state workers and others involved with the child to ensure that they are not violating the child’s rights;
• Be at every hearing where it pertains to custody, evaluation, visitation, or any hearing directly related to the child; and
• To be notified and present as well as be given the opportunity to be make statements or be heard by the court on behalf of the minor.
In some cases, minor’s counsel may express the child’s wishes to the court but know that their requests for action are given insignificant weight.

Why is Minor’s Counsel needed?

In Utah, Minor’s Counsel must determine what is in the best interest of the child and determine what the minor’s preference is if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody. Minor’s Counsel works to investigate the allegations and facts presented. Depending on the situation and case, the Court could also request Minor’s Counsel to look into specific issues relating to the child. In order to better inform Minor’s Counsel regarding the child, Minor’s Counsel is tasked with gathering information regarding the child and their best interests from various sources. As such, Minor’s Counsel has access to the child’s records, including medical and school records and has the right to interview any relevant person in the child’s life.

Can I hire someone to represent my child?

Unfortunately that is not how it works. The court must appoint an attorney to represent the child. A parent may make a request for minor’s counsel to be appointed to represent their child. Additionally, the parents can enter into a stipulation for Minor’s counsel to be appointed but the court will need to sign off on the stipulation to make it an order of appointment.

Who Pays The Attorney Fees For Minor’s Counsel?

The court will decide who pays Minor’s counsel fees when they appoint Minor’s counsel. In some cases, the court may require one parent to pay all the fees. In other cases, the fees might be split between both parents. However, if the court has found a parent to be indigent under the court’s financial guidelines, then the court can order the county to pay Minor’s counsel fees.

Once Minor’s Counsel Is Appointed, What Is The Next Step?

The court will notify our office once we have been appointed to represent the child/children. At this point our office will send each party a letter with an information packet and release forms allowing us to speak with doctors, school officials, etc. If the court has ordered the parties to pay Minor’s Counsel Fees, the retainer fee must be paid to our office prior to any work being done on the case. Once the retainer fee, information packets, and release forms are received, our office will begin our review and investigation of the case. We ask that any concerns a party have must be sent to us in writing. We will speak to the parents and interview various collaterals as needed depending on the circumstances of each case. One important aspect is our meeting with the minor. Our office will contact the parent to schedule an appointment with the minor to meet with his/her attorney. At this appointment, only the child will speak with the attorney. We will not be reporting back to either party or their counsel as to what the minor child has advised us of our the results of our investigations, our findings will be discussed and made known to all at the set court hearing. At every hearing where it pertains to custody, evaluation, visitation or other hearing directly related to the child, minor’s counsel has a right to be notified and present as well as be given the opportunity to be make statements or be heard by the court on behalf of the minor.

Minor’s Counsel Rights and Access

Minor’s counsel may be given unhampered access to a child’s records as well as entrusted with other rights in order to protect the child’s best interests. Some of these rights are as follows:
• Reasonable access to the minor.
• Seeking relief on behalf of the minor.
• Notices of proceedings and all phases of the proceeding, including any requests for examinations that may affect the minor.
• The right to interview individuals and review records relating to medical, dental, psychological, school, case workers, service providers or any other individual that has cared for the child. They are required to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the law.
• The right to be given notice of, to seek or refuse independent medical and psychological exams, for the purpose of the proceedings, unless court ordered.
• The right to be provided all court filings and documentations, to file proceedings and respond, on behalf of the minor. At every hearing where it pertains to custody, evaluation, visitation or other hearing directly related to the child, minor’s counsel has a right to be notified and present as well as be given the opportunity to be make statements or be heard by the court on behalf of the minor.

Along with all of these rights above, minor’s counsel has the right to make statements or requests openly or in writing to the court. This includes, monitoring advocates, parents, counselors, state workers and others involved with the child to ensure that they are not violating the child’s rights. In Utah, minor’s counsel carries a lot of weight with the courts. They are a neutral voice for the child, without compromising the child’s rights or emotional well-being and not forcing the child to side with one parent or the other. Their role is to consider what is in the child’s best interests, while not being bound by emotions that often come with divorce, child abuse, neglect and other difficult issues often associated with contested child custody or divorce cases. Minor’s counsel is a neutral voice for the child, without compromising the child’s rights, emotional well-being or forcing the child to side with one parent or the other. Their role is to consider what is in the best interest of the minor child, while not being bound by emotions that often come with divorce, child abuse, finances, neglect, and other difficult issues often associated with contested child custody or divorce (dissolution) cases. Minor’s counsel only represents the child. Minor’s counsel can be appointed to represent siblings, however when/if the siblings have different wishes then they each have a right to separate counsel.

The Court has to listen to the child’s preference, right?

Minor’s Counsel must determine what is in the best interest of the child based on the minor’s input. If Minor’s Counsel determines what the minor’s preference and the minor child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody the court must consider the minor’s preference but is not required to make orders compliant with the minor’s preferences.

Should I discuss the case with my child?

It is crucial that you avoid discussing the case with your child. Litigation is difficult for adults to handle and even more stressful for children. You can simply tell your child the following:
• they have an attorney,
• they will be meeting with their attorney,
• everything that they say to their attorney is confidential between them and their attorney,
• that their only job is to tell the truth and be open with their attorney.

Utah Divorce Attorneys

When you need to get a divorce or need help with child custody in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.