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Questions You Want Answered > Child Custody and Support > What is a Best Interest Attorney?

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 A Best Interest Attorney, as opposed to a Child Privilege Attorney, is a lawyer appointed by the Court to represent and present to the Court what custodial arrangment and conditions are in the best interest of the child.  The Best Interest Attorney role also encompasses the role of the Child Privilege Attorney.  This lawyer does not represent either parent and although the minor child is the client, this lawyer does not represent what the minor child wants, but rather what is in the minor child's best interest.  This lawyer is appointed by the court in cases of high conflict, or where there are questions or circumstances that require the investigation of a third party professional.  Many courts order either a Best Interest Attorney or a custody evaluation, but not both.  No parent can hire a Best Interest Attorney; rather they are appointed by the Court after one side files a motion requesting them.  The Court will also order both parents to pay the Best Interest Attorney, even if only one of them wanted the lawyer appointed.

The role of the Best Interest Attorney came about because sometimes parents are so wrapped up in their needs or the conflict between them, that they are unable to focus on or present to the court what is in their minor child's best interest.  A Best Interest Attorney, like any other attorney in the case, investigates the conditions, obtains information, talks to the minor child, the parents, the teachers, the daycare providers, and any other people in order to determine what they believe to be in the best interest of the minor child.  They then present that position at trial just like any other attorney, along with the evidence that supports it. Many times, they are pivotal in drafting a settlement of the case.  Their position, because it comes from the child's best interest, is given a lot of weight by the Court in any child custody hearing.

Most Best Interest Attorneys speak with both parents.  They also meet with the minor child or children, sometimes with each parent, and sometimes alone.  Those conversations with the minor children are privileged under the attorney/client privilege and may not be revealed by the Best Interest Attorney.  The Best Interest Attorney also talks to school personnel, and daycare providers, and obtains records from them concerning the child and the parents.  Most Best Interest Attorneys ask the parents for a list of people with whom the parent thinks they should speak.  Depending on the length of the list, the Best Interest Attorney may not speak with everyone on the list, which is why it is a good idea to have a short list of the people who can provide the most pertinent information. 

Last updated on January 14, 2013 by Karen Robbins, Attorney at Law