Representation of Children
I greatly enjoy my work representing children in family law matters. I am regularly appointed by the court to represent children in contested cases involving custody and parenting time disputes. As the child’s attorney, I have the unique ability in that case to advocate for what is in the child’s best interest rather than adhering solely to the side of one parent or the other.
Representing children is a hybrid role where I advocate for what the child wants as well as advocating for what is in the child’s best interest based on my professional opinion. That hybrid role is on a sliding scale. With very young children, I advocate for what is in their best interest. With older children, their opinions will also be considered and I will inform the court what the child wants as well as what I believe is in that child’s best interest. This role must be performed in a sensitive way so that the attorney does not put the children in a position of choosing between their parents, but instead focuses on what is working for a child and what could use some improvement.
I have been vetted by the Multnomah County Circuit Court to accept appointments by the court to represent children who need an independent voice. This can be because a parent or the child has requested such an appointment or it could be because a judge is concerned about a child and requested that the child have his or her own attorney. This most often occurs in cases where there is an especially compelling reason to have an independent person involved with the case, such as allegations that a child has been physically or sexually abused, the child is experiencing unusual distress, a parent is returning to the child’s life after an extended absence, or the parents have a very high-conflict relationship.
In these cases, I meet with each parent separately, as well as the child, review documents such as school and medical records, talk with the parents’ attorneys and other professionals involved in the case. Ultimately, I make recommendations to the parents. Often, I act as an informal mediator to try to assist the parents in resolving their disputes outside of court. If the case does not settle, then I make recommendations to the judge.
If you have a case in Multnomah County, the appointment for a child must go through the court system. You cannot retain your own attorney to represent a child because the court wants to make sure that only well qualified attorneys are representing children. In Clackamas County, the court doesn’t have its own program and instead relies on the parents to mutually agree on an attorney to represent their child. If the parents can’t agree, then a Clackamas County judge will decide which attorney will be appointed. Washington County uses a hybrid system of both judicial involvement and agreement by the parents.
As a family law attorney, I’ve dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours representing children. From that experience, I can attest that having an independent advocate for children who are impacted by their parents’ conflict can be an extremely useful tool in helping resolve challenging issues. I enjoy my work representing children, and when I represent a parent in a case where an attorney for the child has been appointed, I appreciate the work of my colleagues who share my dedication to improving conditions for children.