What Happens When a Couple Can’t Afford a Law Guardian?


If you are engaged in a contentious child custody dispute, the judge may appoint a separate attorney to represent your children. This advocate used to be called a law guardian but today is known as the attorney for the child. Their job is to present your children’s preferences to the court, or, if they feel the children’s preferences are not in their best interest, to advocate for an outcome that advances their best interests. When this happens, you can expect a sharp spike in your legal bills because the court has the power to order one or both parents to pay for this attorney.

Like any attorney, the attorney for the child will bill by the hour and may even charge for expert consultations if they have child psychologists or social workers interview your kids. You must keep a close eye on expenses to make sure all costs are justified. The attorney for the child will submit a fee schedule to the court for approval, but you can object if you feel it’s too high.

New York strongly supports the role of attorney for the child as protector of your child’s due process rights, so once the court makes an appointment, it’s hard to argue against it. If you truly cannot afford to pay another lawyer, some public funds are available, but that’s usually at the appellate level. It is almost always the parents’ responsibility to pay for these attorneys at the trial level.

Mounting expenses always put pressure on litigants to settle, so if the court has appointed an attorney for the child — and especially if the judge has ordered you to pay — you can easily lose resolve. The best thing you can do is avoid this situation by taking proactive steps to resolve your custody dispute.

Child custody mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that works for many couples, even when they start with strong disagreements. An experienced mediator understands how the court is likely to rule if issues go to trial and can guide you skillfully and cost-effectively towards a reasonable parenting plan. The result: less time in court, lower attorney fees, and no need for a law guardian, because you’ve settled your issues without a hearing.

When you have limited resources for a legal fight, divorce mediation makes perfect sense and leaves you with financial reserves to start your next chapter in life.

If you are contemplating divorce, learn how Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. can work for you. Call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.

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