In most countries around the world, it is held that a person below 18 years should be considered as a child. Like every grown up (above 18) citizen, children too have their rights and if someone violates their rights or harm them in any way, they can take legal help to find a solution to the problem.
In a case where a child is involved, any one of the concerned parties can apply to the court for legal aid and the court will appoint a children’s lawyer to ensure the child gets justice. The court also has the power to appoint a children’s lawyer on its own. A children’s lawyer provides all the legal services to the child and offers the same level of faithfulness, discretion, and proficient representation as is given to any adult client. The lawyer takes care of all types of legal issues such as real estate dispute, protection, abuse, etc.
The court appoints a lawyer when the following incidents occur.
# It is alleged that the child has been abused or neglected.
# The parents are having a tremendous conflict.
# Allegations are made by the children who are mature enough to express their opinion.
# Family violation incidents are alleged.
# There are grave mental health issues in relation to parents, either mother or father, or the child.
# Complicated issues are involved in the case.
What if there is more than one child in a family?
If there are 2-3 kids in a family, the same lawyer represents them all. However, the lawyer must meet each of them individually to gather valuable information that can aid him in the court hearing. However, if the parents or any other person who is involved in the particular case thinks that another attorney should be appointed to represent one or more children, they can request the court for this and the judge will take the final decision.
What are the guiding principles for a children’s lawyer?
Child lawyers follow the principles mentioned in The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, Care of Children Act 2004, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Some of the principles mentioned in these legal decrees are:
# Children have the right to know and they should be taken care of by their father and mother.
# Children can maintain their name, identity and culture as these fundamental things are their human rights.
# Children must be protected from all sorts of violence (both domestic and outside).
# Children have the right to say what they think about an issue that directly affects them and they may also decide to say nothing.
# The child’s opinion must be heard while deciding who will look after the child.
What is the role of the lawyer?
# The lawyer must explain the court proceedings to the child in lucid language so that it can understand what is going on.
# Arrange the evidences to support the child’s petition and present those to the court.
# Provide legal support and guidance to the concerned child.
# Help the court take a fair decision by presenting the child’s opinion about the incident.
# Make sure the child’s best interests are taken care of.
# If there are cultural differences within family members, he must call evidences from a neutral source.
# The lawyer must act as a honest negotiator between the child and its parents.
# If the child is afraid of its parents, the lawyer should protect the interests of the kid.
# He must attempt to reduce any delay in the case and make sure the court understands the need to pass its judgment as soon as possible.
# Once the court gives a verdict, the lawyer must explain the judge’s decision to the child and discuss with him how the ruling will affect him.
What if the child doesn’t have the money to pay the lawyer?
Court will pay the lawyer’s remuneration and other expenditures. However, the judge can ask the parents or any other party involved in the case to pay the lawyer’s fees. Though, the judge will scrutinize their financial condition before ordering them to pay anything.
Can the lawyer decide a case on the child’s behalf? How much importance is given to what the child says?
The judge gives the verdict, a lawyer can’t. The judge hears what the parents/other party says and also what the child lawyer says in favor of his client and decides how much importance should be given to the child’s observation. Whatever is the final decision, according to the law, the child’s views must be heard to give a proper judgment.