Attorney for the Child FAQs Answered for Long Island, NY
In many child custody cases on Long Island, either parent may request, or the court, upon its own initiative, may appoint an Attorney for the Child(ren). This person is commonly referred to as an AFC, or even a law guardian (which is the former name for such an attorney). Many parents are unsure of the role of such an attorney and how this new player may change the game.
What is the Role of an AFC?
As a preliminary matter, an AFC is typically appointed in Family Court cases. These cases could range from child custody and visitation, PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision), and juvenile delinquency cases. AFCs are also common in Supreme Court during a Long Island Divorce. In most cases, an AFC will be appointed if a child is at an age where they can articulate his or her own wishes.
The main purpose of an AFC is to be the advocate for the child or children involved in the case. He or she is there to represent the interests of the child as it relates to his or her parent’s pending case.
Will the AFC Speak to My Children?
In almost every case, the AFC will speak to the child or children directly. In many cases, the AFC will also speak with the parents. Typically, the AFC may speak with the parents without their own attorney present. The AFC may also wish to speak with personnel at the child’s school, the child’s therapist, the child’s medical doctor, the forensic examiner in the case if applicable, or anyone else the AFC considers appropriate to obtaining relevant and necessary information. The AFCs have such wide authority because they need to ensure that he or she can properly express the child’s wishes to the court. In those cases in which a child is too young to verbalize his or her own opinion, the AFC will use the resources available to him or her and argue the position deemed to be in the child’s best interests.
What Happens at Trial in a Long Island Court?
The AFCs main concern during trial is ensuring that the court hear an unbiased, fair view of what is in the child’s best interests. This is important because the rest of the trial is usually colored by each parent’s attempt to “win” the court to his or her own side.
Keeping this in mind, AFCs are permitted to call witnesses and to cross-examine other party’s witnesses on behalf of the child. The AFC can also depose individuals prior to trial, subpoena records, and conduct other pre-trial discovery.
May the AFC Deviate from the Child’s Wishes?
In some cases, a child may verbally express his or her wishes to live with one parent, but the AFC may firmly believe that this is not within the child’s best interests. In cases such as these, the AFC may deviate from the child’s wishes only if (i) the child is “incapable of knowing, voluntary and considered judgment”, or, (ii) there is a “substantial risk of imminent, serious harm to the child” if the child’s wish is granted.
Have more Questions About the Attorney for Your Child? Contact Us
Throughout your Family Court Case or your Long Island Divorce, an AFC is a critical player. If you are considering either type of case, we can help. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-629-2545 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
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