Lawyer for the child
When you go through the Family Court to sort out disputes about children, the judge often appoints an independent lawyer for the children. This lawyer is called the lawyer for the child.
The judge will decide if you and the other people involved in the case have to pay some of the lawyer for child's costs.
Find out more about Cost Contribution Orders
What the lawyer does
The lawyer for the child:
- represents the child in the court process and any negotiations between you and the other people involved
- explains the court process to the child in a way they can understand
- makes sure the judge is told what the child thinks and is told about all the things relevant to the child’s welfare and best interests
- explains the judge’s decision to the child and talks with them about how it will affect them.
Sometimes the lawyer will ask the child if they want to meet the judge and sometimes the judge will ask to meet them. Usually, the meeting will only involve the judge, a court official, the child and the lawyer for the child.
Talking to the child
The lawyer will want to talk to the child. This might be at home, at school, at the lawyer’s office or some other place – whatever the child is most comfortable with. The child doesn’t have to talk to the lawyer but most children like being able to talk to someone about what’s happening.
What the child says to their lawyer is confidential. The lawyer can’t tell anyone else what the child said if the child doesn’t want them to; except if the lawyer finds out the child or someone else may be unsafe.
Talking to other people
The lawyer for the child might also spend time with each parent separately and with other people who are important in the child’s life. This might be members of the wider family, whānau, teachers or social workers.
You don’t have to talk to the lawyer for the child. However, it’s a good way to:
- find out more about what the child thinks and feels
- tell the lawyer for the child what you think is best for the child.
Problems involving the lawyer for the child
- If you think someone is telling the child what to say to the lawyer for the child, you should tell your own lawyer and the lawyer for the child. The court may get specialist help to find out if this is happening.
- If the child doesn’t like the lawyer for the child, they can tell the Family Court coordinator or Family Court staff, or you can talk to your own lawyer, the Family Court coordinator or Family Court staff if the child is unable to do this.
- If you don’t like what the lawyer for child is doing, you should talk to them, your own lawyer or the Family Court coordinator or staff.
- If the lawyer has done something wrong – for example, if they’ve acted negligently or unprofessionally – you can complain to the District Law Society.