EDUCATION AND TRAINING REQUIREMENTS OF MINOR’S COUNSEL
Family Code Rule 5.242
This will be the second in a series about the position of Minor’s Councel. In Family Law cases, the child’s counsel is charged with the representation of the child’s best interest.
As outlined in our last entry about Minor’s Counsel which can be viewed here, the person entrusted with this role has many duties and many rights, which translates to power. Since this person can also be coddled by the courts and treated as if their word is gold, it is important that their practice reflects the expertise, sensitivity and fairness their training is meant to impart.
The person is this position may be available for such work because their own practice allows them time to contract their services out.
The educational and training requirements of a Minor’s Counsel are outlined in Rule 5.242 of the California Family Code.
Family Code Rule 5.242. Qualifications, rights, and responsibilities of counsel appointed to represent a child in family law proceedings
This rule governs counsel appointed to represent the best interest of the child in a custody or visitation proceeding under Family Code section 3150.
(b) General appointment requirements
To be eligible for appointment as counsel for a child, counsel must:
(1) Be an active member in good standing of the State Bar of California;
(2) Have professional liability insurance or demonstrate to the court that he or she is adequately self-insured; and
(3 )Meet the education, training, and experience requirements of this rule.
(c) Education and training requirements
Effective January 1, 2009, before being appointed as counsel for a child in a family law proceeding, counsel must have completed at least 12 hours of applicable education and training which must include all the following subjects:
(1)Statutes, rules of court, and case law relating to child custody and visitation litigation;
(2)Representation of a child in custody and visitation proceedings;
(3)Special issues in representing a child, including the following:
(A)Various stages of child development;
(B)Communicating with a child at various developmental stages and presenting the child’s view;
(C)Recognizing, evaluating and understanding evidence of child abuse and neglect, family violence and substance abuse, cultural and ethnic diversity, and gender-specific issues;
(D)The effects of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect on children; and
(E)How to work effectively with multidisciplinary experts.
(d) Annual education and training requirements
Effective January 1, 2010, to remain eligible for appointment as counsel for a child, counsel must complete during each calendar year a minimum of eight hours of applicable education and training in the subjects listed in (c).
(e) Applicable education and training
(1)Education and training that addresses the subjects listed in (c) may be applied toward the requirements of this rule if completed through:
(A)A professional continuing education group;
(B)An educational institution;
(C)A professional association;
(D)A court-connected group; or
(E)A public or private for-profit or not-for-profit group.
(2)A maximum of two of the hours may be by self-study under the supervision of an education provider that provides evidence of completion.
(3)Counsel may complete education and training courses that satisfy the requirements of this rule offered by the education providers in (1) by means of video presentations or other delivery means at remote locations. Such courses are not self-study within the meaning of this rule.
(4)Counsel who serve as an instructor in an education and training course that satisfies the requirements of this rule may receive 1.5 hours of course participation credit for each hour of course instruction. All other counsel may claim credit for actual time he or she attended the education and training course.
(f) Experience requirements
(1)Persons appointed as counsel for a child in a family law proceeding must have represented a party or a child in at least six proceedings involving child custody within the preceding five years as follows:
(A)At least two of the six proceedings must have involved contested child custody and visitation issues in family law; and
(B)Child custody proceedings in dependency or guardianship cases can count for no more than three of the six required for appointment.
(2)Courts may develop local rules that impose additional experience requirements for persons appointed as counsel for a child in a family law proceeding.
(g) Alternative experience requirements
Counsel who does not meet the initial experience requirements in (f) may be appointed to represent a child in a family law proceeding if he or she meets one of the following alternative experience requirements. Counsel must:
(1)Be employed by a legal services organization, a governmental agency, or a private law firm that has been approved by the presiding or supervising judge of the local family court as qualified to represent a child in family law proceedings and be directly supervised by an attorney in an organization, an agency, or a private law firm who meets the initial experience requirements in (f);
(2)Be an attorney working in consultation with an attorney approved by the presiding or supervising judge of the local family court as qualified to represent a child in family law proceedings; or
(3)Demonstrate substantial equivalent experience as determined by local court rule or procedure.
(h) Compliance with appointment requirements
A person appointed as counsel for a child must:
(1)File a declaration with the court indicating compliance with the requirements of this rule no later than 10 days after being appointed and before beginning work on the case. Counsel may complete the Declaration of Counsel for a Child Regarding Qualifications (form FL-322) or other local court forms for this purpose; and
(2)Notify the court within five days of any disciplinary action taken by the State Bar of California, stating the basis of the complaint, result, and notice of any reproval, probation, or suspension.
If your child has been awarded a Minor’s Counsel by the court, you have a right to hold the Minor’s Counsel to the standards of expertise their training should have provided.