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A Minor’s Right to Be Heard in a Child Custody Case

Posted on : January 10, 2017, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
A Minor’s Right to Be Heard in a Child Custody Case

A Minor’s Right to Be Heard in Child Custody

When an attorney is appointed for a child in a parental rights case, the attorney represents the child’s interests before the family court. If the matter goes up on Special Action, should the child be joined as a real party in interest? Should the appointed attorney represent her?

In Klahr v. Court of Appeals of State, Div. One, 654 P.2d 1 (1982), the Arizona Supreme Court addressed these issues.

Facts and Procedure

Mrs. Rudman and Mr. Silver were the parents of three minor children, D, J and M Silver. Mrs. Rudman divorced Mr. Silver and married R. Rudman. In 1981, Mrs. Rudman and R. Rudman asked the court to terminate the parental rights of Mr. Silver. They also requested that the court appoint an attorney to represent the children. In October 1981, the court held a hearing on the petitions.

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After the hearing, the court dismissed the petitions for dependency and termination of parental rights. It granted Mrs. Rudman custody of J and D. Mr. Silver got custody of M.

Mr. Silver appealed to the Court of Appeals, but the appeal was dismissed as untimely. He then petitioned for Special Action in the Court of Appeals. That court accepted jurisdiction and held that the order of the superior court was void for want of jurisdiction. The children did not participate in this Special Action.

The guardian ad litem for Klahr brought the matter to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
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I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
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After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
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Child’s Right to Participate in an Appeal

Guardian ad litem Klahr argued that J did not have the chance to be heard before the Court of Appeals. He claimed that J was a real party in interest and should have been joined as a party to the action in the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court found that this situation resulted from a misunderstanding between attorneys. Silver’s attorney served a copy of the petition on the attorney who had represented the children below. That attorney did not file a response or appear in the Court of Appeals on behalf of the children. He felt that since the children had not been made parties to the action in the Court of Appeals, he should not appear.

Silver’s attorney believed that the children had been made parties by listing the juvenile court case caption. He argued that listing the case number satisfied the requirement of joining all real parties in interest without violating the statute or rules.

Minor’s Right to Be Heard in a Child Custody Case.

Minor’s Right to Be Heard in a Child Custody Case.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that children can be named in the caption of a Special Action. To preserve the anonymity of the children, the caption may refer to the children as “child or children in ____ County Juvenile Action No. ___.” All parties are then on notice that the child or children are parties in the Special Action.

Guardian Ad Litem in Special Action

The Court considered whether counsel appointed for a child in a juvenile proceeding may represent the child in a Special Action. It ruled that an attorney can represent a minor in all Title 8 proceedings. This includes a Special Action.

The Court ruled that the interests of J were not represented in the proceeding before the Court of Appeals. It found that she was a real party in interest and should have been joined in the action. It ruled that she must be granted the right to respond to the petition filed in the Court of Appeals.

Disposition

The Supreme Court ordered that the Court of Appeals retain jurisdiction of the appeal and provide J the opportunity to be heard on the matter.



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