The Children’s Law Center of Connecticut works to protect indigent children involved in family court by providing high quality legal services and advocating for policies that advance the well being and best interests of children. Through its work representing children, CLC seeks to achieve the most stable, safe, and beneficial arrangement for children who are caught in the middle of a family crisis such as a custody battle, divorce, or other chronic family conflict.
CLC’s cases are complex, long, and characterized as “high conflict.” Threatened by the possibility of losing their children, parents will fight hard and use every means available to them - often to the detriment of their children. Thus, there is a need to have trained professionals speak for children’s unique needs and interests.
Eligibility for the Children’s Law Center’s free legal representation is based on indigence, as determined by the court, and an exacerbating issue such as child abuse, domestic violence, neglect, mental illness, substance abuse, or chronic conflict. CLC represents children who are referred by family court.
When does a child need an attorney?
- when separated parents cannot agree about the arrangements for the children, such as where they should live or how much time they should spend with each parent.
- when there are questions and risk factors in the case such as parental substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and child abuse or neglect.
- when the case has gone on for a long time without agreements that work or when the children are suffering from the high level of conflict.
- when children have special needs and the parents cannot agree on how those needs should be met.
- The Court may appoint a lawyer to act as the Guardian ad litem (GAL) or the child's attorney. As “Attorney for the Minor Child,” it is the lawyer's job to represent to the Court the child's wishes. A GAL represents to the Court what is in the child's best interest. The younger the child, the more likely it is that the lawyer will be appointed as GAL.
- The lawyer makes an independent investigation of the matter by meeting with the child and the child's parents. The lawyer will also gather additional information that may be helpful by reviewing court documents, speaking with teachers, doctors, extended family members or anyone else who may have relevant information.
- The lawyer participates in all legal proceedings and may take additional steps to ensure that the child has necessary services and to protect the child from further conflict or instability.
How does CLC become the attorney for the child?
A parent can file a motion as part of an existing case to ask the judge to appoint “counsel for the minor child.” The judge then decides whom to appoint, although it may be possible to ask for CLC specifically. The judge may also appoint a lawyer without a request from a parent if he or she feels it would be beneficial to protect the child's interests, which may not be the same as the parents’.
How much does it cost?
For low-income families, there is no cost.