If your custody case is filled with conflict and you believe your child’s wishes are not being heard by the judge, you have options. In Wake County, The Child’s Advocate can be a voice for your child. This article will explore what The Child’s Advocate is and how it can help your child.
What is The Child’s Advocate?
Founded in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) organization, The Child’s Advocate is now a program offered through Legal Aid of North Carolina. The program operates in Wake County and provides attorneys for children in high-conflict custody cases. If The Child’s Advocate (TCA) is appointed in your Wake County custody case, an attorney from TCA or a TCA volunteer attorney will represent your child.
A Wake County family court judge can appoint The Child’s Advocate only under certain circumstances. To qualify for appointment, your custody case must involve at least one of the following factors: high-conflict between the two parents, neglect, substance abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, or children with special needs.
At its core, TCA gives children a voice in the court process. Just as you and the other parent of your child have independent counsel representing your interests, the TCA attorney will provide independent advice and represent their interests. And, unlike a guardian ad litem, the TCA attorney won’t make a judgment call on what’s in your child’s best interests. Instead, they’ll listen to your child’s express wishes and do what they can to achieve the exact outcome your child wants—just like your attorney does for you.
For instance, if your child doesn’t want to live with the other parent and only wants short, daytime visits due to concerns over the other parent’s alcohol consumption but the other parent wants full custody, the TCA attorney will create a strategy to help ensure their client gets what they want.
How can the TCA help?
Beyond acting as a voice for your child in the legal process, once a TCA attorney becomes involved, the attorney can often help the parties resolve the case without the need of a trial—saving both parents time, money, and the emotional strain of enduring a trial.
Even if a trial does take place, the TCA attorney works to ensure the judge considers your child’s express wishes when deciding the case. They do this by presenting evidence and questioning witnesses during the trial, just like your attorney will do on your behalf.
What are the duties and responsibilities of a TCA attorney?
Just like a regular attorney, a TCA attorney has a duty of confidentiality with their client. That means unless their client gives them permission, they won’t share the information their client tells them. That allows children to feel more comfortable opening up and telling the attorney exactly what’s on their mind.
The TCA attorney can speak to the parents, the child’s mental health professionals, and anyone else who may have information about the case. In general, the TCA attorney should:
- Interview the parents, child, teachers, and medical and mental health professionals
- Investigate the facts of the case
- Evaluate the case, including the child’s needs and wishes
- Help the parties communicate when possible
- Advocate for the child
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How do you appoint the TCA?
To appoint a TCA attorney to your case, your attorney must file a motion to appoint the TCA and calendar it for hearing. The motion must allege at least one of the factors listed earlier but should allege as many as possible to increase the chances of a judge appointing the TCA. You probably won’t need to appear at the hearing or testify but check with your attorney to make sure.
If you’re in the middle of a high-conflict custody case and want to make sure your child’s voice is heard, contact our office today for a consultation. Our experienced attorneys can talk to you about your legal rights and discuss the possibility of appointing The Child’s Advocate.