Law Guardian Practice in Custody and Visitation Proceedings




Carol Sherman and Barbara H. Dildine (The Children's Law Center)


EXCERPTS (role of Law Guardian;  in camera interviews)



I. Introduction


            Few cases come before the court that are as emotionally and bitterly contested as that of custody of a child.  These cases are often complex and involve multiple issues¾

issues that are psychological and social as well as legal and economic.


            The dissolution of a family results in disruption of a child’s family relationships and creates a sense of insecurity.  Children caught in a custody/visitation battle between parents and other relatives often feel sadness, guilt, powerlessness and anger.  These feelings can have a deleterious impact on a child’s development.  As the subject of the dispute, the child has fundamental and long term interests in the decision before the court.  The child has an interest not only in the outcome of the proceeding but in the process as well.  The bitterness of the dispute, the pace of the litigation, the information presented to the court and the ability of the child to be heard are all of enormous importance to a child involved in a custody/visitation case.  Therefore, the law guardian must be a strong advocate for the child and participate fully and vigorously in the proceeding. 


            Unfortunately, custody litigation often increases the hostilities between the parties, adds to the child’s anxiety and distress, is extremely costly and stretches over long periods of time.  It is unfortunately common for one or both parties to disparage the other in front of the child or to be careless or indiscreet about criticizing or even vilifying the other party under circumstances in which the child can overhear.  Parties often have angry, screaming disputes in front of their children.  Hostility may also be more subtle and orchestrated by exposure to attitudes, opinions or covert manipulation designed to alienate the child from the other party or otherwise engender negative impressions or feelings of betrayal by the other party.


            Not surprisingly, statements made in open court by parties can be extremely disputatious, if not incendiary.  Many such litigants are fixated upon perceived wrongs done to them by the opposing party or other issues that resonate personally but do not focus upon the legal issues at stake.  In their role as zealous advocates, counsel for litigants in custody/visitation proceedings make statements that reflect the partisan perspective of their clients.  Accusations and finger-pointing against the other party are typical of colloquy between opposing counsel in custody/visitation cases.  The parties’ hostility toward each other may overshadow their concern for the child’s interests.


            The law guardian, whose sole interest is that of the child, can be effective in focusing the parties on the needs of the child and assisting them in recognizing and dealing with their own anger and sense of betrayal without involving or influencing the child.  Giving a child an effective voice in a custody/visitation proceeding requires comprehensive and often multi-disciplinary representation by a lawyer and social worker who have specialized training in meeting the legal needs of children.  Children are not miniature adults.  They are in the process of developing psychologically, cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally.   Counsel for the child must be knowledgeable and skillful in interviewing the child, gathering and assessing the information and evidence necessary to provide effective representation and developing a comprehensive position and plan.  The law guardian can work with the parties in acknowledging the child’s wishes and feelings as independent of their own and thus allow and even encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.


            In addition, allegations of child abuse, neglect or maltreatment as well as domestic violence are sometimes made in custody/visitation cases and genuine and sometimes urgent child protective and domestic violence issues are often prevalent, particularly in Family Court.  Judges must respond swiftly to allegations of domestic violence and ensure that all child protective allegations are investigated and that necessary action is taken to protect children and victims of domestic violence, while at the same time observing the procedural and substantive rights of litigants.  The law guardian can be effective in investigating the allegations and presenting the court with vital information and safe and effective alternatives if parental contact is appropriate.


            Despite the best efforts of the judiciary, custody/visitation proceedings, particularly in Family Court, are frequently protracted.  Hotly contested trials continue over long periods of time.  This exacerbates the anxiety of the subject children and contributes to feelings that their lives are unsettled and unpredictable.  The Law Guardian endeavors to ensure that the child is insulated from such parental strife and may alert or exhort the court to take certain action to ameliorate this situation.


            The law guardian can work with the parties in developing an acceptable plan for custody and visitation.  The law guardian can inform the parties of and refer them to appropriate services such as community counseling and mental health programs.  Successful resolution of custody cases prior to litigation is not only of great benefit to the child and the parties, but also is of assistance to the court.  In addition, the law guardian can monitor interim and final orders and intervene to resolve problems that may arise.  Thus, the law guardian may be able to anticipate or recognize incipient conflicts and resolve them without court intervention.


II. Appointment of Law Guardian in Custody/Visitation Proceedings


            Appointment of a Law Guardian, the preferred practice in most contested custody cases, is vital to provide independent representation for children, and the Law Guardian is expected to participate vigorously in every aspect of the proceedings in order to advance the wishes and interests of the children.   Pursuant to F.C.A. §242, a Law Guardian is “an attorney admitted to practice law in the state of New York and designated under this part to represent minors pursuant to” F.C.A. §249.  Family Court Act §249(a) grants the court discretion in custody and visitation cases to appoint a Law Guardian.  That section authorizes the court “to appoint a Law Guardian to represent the child, when, in the opinion of the family court judge, such representation will serve the purposes of the act . . . .”  By statute and case law, the Law Guardian is deemed “often indispensable to a practical realization of due process of law” and “helpful in making reasoned determinations of fact and proper orders of disposition.”  F.C.A. §241; Molier v. Molier, 53 A.D.2d 996, 386 N.Y.S.2d 226, 227 (3rd Dept. 1976), modified, 46 N.Y.2d 718, 413 N.Y.S.2d 372 (1978).  She is obligated to “help protect [the] interests” of her clients and “help . . . express their wishes to the court.”  F.C.A. §241.


            While appointment of a Law Guardian in contested custody proceedings is not mandatory, it is the preferred practice.  See F.C.A. §249(a); Matter of Farnham v. Farnham, 252 A.D.2d 677, 675 N.Y.S.2d 244, 246 (3rd Dept. 1998); Matter of Church v. Church, 238 A.D.2d 677, 656 N.Y.S.2d 416 (3rd Dept. 1997).  The failure to appoint a Law Guardian has been held to be an abuse of discretion.  Vecchiarelli v. Vecchiarelli, 238 A.D.2d 411, 656 N.Y.S.2d 337 (2nd Dept. 1997) (where former husband sought to hold former wife in contempt for failure to allow visitation with their daughter, failure to appoint a Law Guardian, who could have “recommend[ed] alternatives for the court’s consideration” and advocated for the children, deemed “an improvident exercise of discretion”).    


The role of the Law Guardian in New York is defined in case law, in standards promulgated by the New York State Bar Association (hereinafter, “NYSBA Standards” or “Standards”) and in the Code of Professional Responsibility.[1]  In August 2003, the
American Bar Association adopted the first national Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody cases, which  was drafted over a ten-year period  by the Family Law Section (hereinafter, “ABA Standards”).       As the Appellate Division,   Second Department interpreted the role of the Law Guardian in the seminal case of Koppenhoefer v. Koppenhoefer, 159 A.D.2d 113, 558 N.Y.S.2d 596, 599-600 (2nd Dept. 1990), “[t]he attorney may act as champion of the child’s best interests, as  advocate  for the child’s preferences, as investigator seeking the truth on controverted issues, or may serve to recommend alternatives for the court’s consideration” (citations omitted).


Law Guardians are typically appointed at the outset of the proceedings and, in cases where parties have at least initially waived their right to counsel, may be the only attorney involved in the case for a substantial portion of the proceedings, if not its entirety.   Since the Law Guardian is appointed by the court to represent the child, a parent cannot “waive” or decline the appointment of a Law Guardian for his or her children.  McWhirter v. McWhirter, 129 A.D.2d 1007, 514 N.Y.S.2d 301, 303 (4th Dept. 1987) (in a proceeding to modify a prior order of visitation, petitioner’s waiver of the appointment of a Law Guardian was rejected on the ground that the Law Guardian protects the child’s rights and is “not for the benefit of either party”); Blank v. Blank, 124 A.D.2d 1010, 509 N.Y.S.2d 217, 218 (4th Dept. 1986) (parties could not mutually agree to waive representation of their children by a Law Guardian).


The Law Guardian “must take an active role” in custody proceedings.  Carballeira v. Shumway, 273 A.D.2d 753, 710 N.Y.S.2d 149, 152 (3rd Dept. 2000).  Where a Law Guardian in a custody proceeding has taken a “passive role,” the child has been deprived of meaningful representation and reversal may be compelled.  Pratt v. Wood, 210 A.D.2d 741, 620 N.Y.S.2d 551, 553 (3rd Dept. 1994); see also Koppenhoefer, 558 N.Y.S.2d at 600.  A Law Guardian who does not take an active role may be discharged in favor of another Law Guardian.    Van Gorder v. Van Gorder, 188 A.D.2d 1049,  591 N.Y.S.2d 915 (4th Dept. 1992).  It is not only permissible but necessary that a Law Guardian participate fully in a custody trial by offering evidence and examining witnesses.  Borkowski v. Borkowski, 90 Misc. 2d 957, 396 N.Y.S.2d 962 (Sup. Ct. Steuben County 1977). Once a Law Guardian is appointed, it is error for the court to proceed to trial in her absence.  See Frizzell v. Frizzell, 177 A.D.2d 825, 576 N.Y.S.2d 439 (3rd Dept. 1991), modified and affirmed, 193 A.D.2d 861, 597 N.Y.S.2d 513 (3d Dept. 1993).


The Law Guardian’s recommendation, while not determinative of the ultimate issue in controversy, has been solidly established as a factor to be considered in awarding custody or visitation.  Bruce B.B. v. Debra C.C., 307 A.D.2d 408, 761 N.Y.S.2d 733 (3rd Dept. 2003) (in arriving at a reasoned custody determination, trial court should assess and weigh many factors including, inter alia, the recommendation of the Law Guardian); Scialdo v. Kernan, 301 A.D.2d 884, 754 N.Y.S.2d 406 (3rd Dept. 2003)  (Law Guardian’s recommendation cited in affirming change of custody); Bates v. Bates, 290 A.D.2d 732, 736 A.D.2d 488, 490 (3rd Dept. 2002); Young v. Young, 212 A.D.2d 114, 628 N.Y.S.2d 957, 960, 964 (2nd Dept. 1995) (trial court’s denial of father’s request for change of custody was an improvident exercise of discretion given, inter alia, law guardian’s recommendation in his favor).


The statutory function of the Law Guardian is to give minors who are the subject of contested custody and visitation proceedings independent representation.  Stien v. Stien, 130 Misc. 2d 609, 496 N.Y.S.2d 902, 906-07 (Fam. Ct. Westchester County 1985). Children are entitled to such representation because their interests are at stake and because neither the parties nor their counsel can properly represent the children’s interests.  Fargnoli v. Faber, 105 A.D.2d 523, 481 N.Y.S.2d 784, 786 (3rd Dept. 1984).


The Law Guardian is “appointed to protect the rights of children, not for the benefit of the parents.”  Blank v. Blank, 124 A.D.2d 1010, 509 N.Y.S.2d 217, 218; see also Zirkind v. Zirkind, 218 A.D.2d 745, 630 N.Y.S.2d 570, 571 (2nd Dept. 1995).  As the Fourth Department noted in Davis v. Davis, 279 A.D.2d 82, 711 N.Y.S.2d 663, 665 (4th Dept. 2000), “[a]lmost invariably, custody proceedings are fiercely contested and involve complex and delicate issues.  The children who are the subject of such proceedings must therefore be represented by a Law Guardian who is ‘absolutely independent of any influence from either parent,’” citing Matter of Scott L. v. Bruce N., 134 Misc. 2d 240, 509 N.Y.S.2d 971, 975 (Fam. Ct. N. Y. County 1986).  In describing why independent, zealous representation is vital to the interests of a child in a custody/visitation proceeding, the Stien court observed that a Law Guardian


has, in some respects, a heavier burden of responsibility to the client and to the court than does the lawyer representing an adult.  In these cases, the Law Guardian must protect the child against both parents, and has a duty to resist either of them, or their counsel, if the youthful client’s interests seem to require it.



While the Law Guardian must be impartial at the outset of custody and visitation proceedings, after interviewing the child and conducting an investigation, the Law Guardian must represent the “wishes” and “interests” of her client.  F.C.A. §241.  Therefore, the Law Guardian often takes a position in accord with one party and not the other.  In the absence of any of the grounds justifying  disqualification of a lawyer in other types of cases (e.g., prior representation of or a relationship with one of the parties), the Law Guardian’s reasoned recommendations do not constitute bias or a basis for his or her removal.  Id. at 905-07.  See also Eli v. Eli, 220 N.Y.L.J. 93, at 30, col. 3 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk County 11/12/98). 


III. Distinction Between “Law Guardian” and “Guardian ad Litem


            The distinction between a Law Guardian representing a child and a guardian ad litem assigned on behalf of a child, which is often blurred or misunderstood, should be clarified.  Unfortunately, the case law sometimes fails to distinguish between the two roles, even though they are substantially different, as are the qualifications for the position.  See, e.g., Bradt v. White, 190 Misc. 2d 526, 740 N.Y.S.2d 777 (Sup. Ct. Greene County 2002) (father brought suit alleging harassment, annoyance, defamation and intimidation against the Law Guardian who represented his child in a custody dispute; court noted that “[t]he line is not always easily drawn” between an attorney for the child who articulates the client’s wishes, and a guardian ad litem, who serves primarily as “an aid to the court in determining the best interests of the child,” citing Bluntt v. O’Connor, 291 A.D.2d 106, 737 N.Y.S.2d 471 (4th Dept. 2002) (parent has no standing either individually or on behalf of child to sue Law Guardian for malpractice alleged to have occurred during Law Guardian’s representation of daughter in visitation proceeding).  This has led to misinterpretation of the role of the Law Guardian and confusion about whether certain practices fall within acceptable boundaries of a Law Guardian’s advocacy.


            A Law Guardian is an attorney who represents a child.  The Law Guardian has a confidential relationship with a child client and acts as an advocate to pursue the lawful objectives of the child, including preferences about custody and visitation.  As a lawyer, the Law Guardian participates in every aspect of the proceedings, gathers evidence, makes and responds to appropriate motions, presents witnesses and other evidence at hearings, cross-examines witnesses, participates in negotiations and other out-of-court discussions, submits summations and conducts any and all lawyerly activities in connection with a case.  Like any other attorney, the Law Guardian may not testify and is not subject to cross-examination.


            A guardian ad litem for a child, appointed under CPLR Art. 12 (particularly Section 1201 & Rule 1202), need not be an attorney.  Indeed, some courts prefer to appoint mental health professionals.  The guardian ad litem stands in loco parentis and “is considered an officer of the court.”  L. Elrod, Raising the Bar for Lawyers Who Represent Children: ABA Standards of Practice for Custody Cases, 37 Fam. L. Q. 105, 106 (2003).  Acting as the court’s investigator and reporter, a guardian ad litem is “bound to determine and advance the child’s best interests even if at odds with a particular preference of the child.”  A. Schepard, The Law Guardian: A need for Statutory Clarification, N.Y.L.J. 9/14/00.   The relationship between guardian ad litem and child is not confidential.  In some jurisdictions, guardians ad litem submit written reports, testify and are subject to cross-examination.


            The NYSBA Standards apply only to “Law Guardians,” meaning “counsel for the child.” (NYSBA Standards, Introduction, p. 2).  The ABA Custody Standards eliminate use of the term guardian ad litem for lawyers representing children in custody cases.  The abolition of this term means “that a person who serves essentially as a witness through testimony in court or by making a report on facts not otherwise in evidence is not serving as an attorney, and thus is not covered under these Standards.” Elrod, p. 117.


            The Appellate Division, First Department expressed a keen understanding of the difference between the roles of guardian ad litem and Law Guardian in Albanese v. Lee, 272 A.D.2d 81, 707 N.Y.S.2d 171 (1st Dept. 2000).  In that case, the father had filed a petition seeking visitation and the mother moved to have the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (“SPCC”) removed as guardian ad litem for her children and to appoint a Law Guardian instead.  The Appellate Division noted that one of the children, who was fifteen years old, had “repeatedly expressed her opposition to visitation and her displeasure with the representation of the SPCC, which she believes is biased towards her father. . . .” 707 N.Y.S.2d at 172.  Further, the Appellate Division noted, SPCC described its role as “being a neutral, rather than the children’s advocate, and there is confusion as to which role it was intended to play.”  In reversing the Family Court’s denial of the mother’s motion, the Appellate Division declared that a Law Guardian should have been assigned to ensure that “the children’s interests were protected and their wishes adequately expressed in court.”  See also Frizzell, 576 N.Y.S.2d at 440, in which the Third Department reversed and remanded for a new hearing where court had proceeded to conduct a custody trial in the absence of the appointed law guardian, noting “nor did the posthearing appointment of another attorney as ‘guardian ad litem’ allow him to take an active role in ensuring the rights of the children.”      

IV. Removal of the Law Guardian


            A law guardian may not be disqualified from representing his/her client based on a claim of bias because the law guardian has taken positions which are in support of one party over another.  In Scott L. v. Bruce N., 509 N.Y.S.2d at 975, in which the court denied the father’s motion to replace the guardian ad litem representing the child, the court stated that the role of the law guardian or the guardian ad litem is to “bring a mature judgment to the situation and to provide or arrange for the provision of the manifold services required by a child who is the subject of a custody proceeding.”  Caselaw is replete with unsuccessful attempts to remove a law guardian who has adopted a position in favor of one party.  In Stien v. Stien, 496 N.Y.S.2d at 904-5, the petitioner father moved to have the law guardian removed because she was allegedly “biased against him and . . . her representation of the child had been incompetent in that she had not included certain specified kinds of investigation in the performance of her functions.”  The court rejected this claim, ruling that a moving party who claims bias must show that the law guardian had access to or was in possession of confidential or secret information that could be used against the movant’s client.  The court ruled that in the context of a custody proceeding, the law guardian’s reasoned decision to favor one party over the other did not constitute bias or a basis for removal of the law guardian.


            Adopting the same reasoning as Stien v. Stien, in Eli v. Eli, NYLJ, 11/12/98, col 30 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Co.), the court denied the motion of the defendant husband in a matrimonial action to remove the law guardian based on allegations that she was biased against him.  The court noted that disqualification of the law guardian can be ordered only upon a showing that he/she violated the Code of Professional Responsibility, “has been derelict in the performance of her duties owing to the children or the court,” or is “unqualified for the office of law guardian” pursuant to rules established by the courts.  The court emphasized the complex nature of the role of the law guardian appointed by the court and the requirement that the law guardian “protect and promote the child’s best interests.”  In Zirkind v. Zirkind, 630 N.Y.S.2d at 571, the court upheld the Family Court’s denial of the father’s motion to remove the law guardian, stating that there was no evidence that the law guardian “had a conflict of interest or failed to diligently represent the best interests of the children.”


            In a highly contested custody litigation, the law guardian will often take a position in accord with a particular party.  However, that does not mean that the position taken is not in the child’s interest.  As the court stated in Stien v. Stien, 496 N.Y.S.2d at 906,


“[i]n these cases the Law Guardian must protect the child against both parents, and has a duty to resist either of them, or their counsel, if the youthful client’s interests seem to require it.  Either parent, or both, may try to persuade the court, pro se or through counsel, that he or she only has the child’s best interests in mind.  Either parent, or both, may – and often does – see the child responding badly to the pulling and hauling of a custody battle and place the blame  on  the  other,  exonerating  him  or herself.   The bitterer  the  contention, the greater the need for counsel loyal only to the child, beholden to neither parent, exercising independent judgment, not answerable  to either party for her manner of representation.”


The law guardian is beholden to neither party and is not answerable to either party for the manner of her representation or her advocacy.  Nor is the law guardian bound by the position of either party or the forensic evaluator.  It is the role of the judge, not that of the law guardian or the forensic evaluator, to determine the ultimate question of custody or visitation.  The law guardian would be of little assistance to his/her clients or the court if she merely echoed the recommendation of the evaluator.  As the court declared in Stien v. Stien, 496 N.Y.S.2d at 907:


It is, in the end, the judge who makes the decision, based on the record.  The judge may use all, part or none of the law guardian’s recommendations.  The better informed those recommendations are, of course, the more useful they will be.  But the law guardian has all of a lawyer’s autonomy.  She cannot be required to satisfy standards of performance laid down for her by either counsel in the case, whose motives are dictated by the obligation to represent another party, with his or her own interests, which may or may not coincide with the interests of the child (citations omitted).


            Thus the law guardian may be disqualified only for such reasons as would disqualify any attorney.  These include a total breakdown of communication and trust between the law guardian and the child client, incompetent or ineffective assistance of counsel, a conflict based on prior representation of either party or a related party, retention of the law guardian by a party, evidence that the law guardian has or will profit personally in a related civil action, or the necessity that the law guardian testify as a witness.  In Matter of Elianne M., 196 A.D.2d 439, 601 N.Y.S.2d 481 (1st Dept. 1993), both the law guardian and her teenage client requested that the law guardian be relieved in a pending neglect proceeding.  In Jaime TT., 191 A.D.2d 132, 599 N.Y.S.2d 892 (3rd Dept. 1993), the court found that the subject child in a sexual abuse proceeding was not provided with effective assistance of counsel by her law guardian because the law guardian was ill-prepared at trial, had not effectively cross examined witnesses, had not presented witnesses on her client’s behalf and had not actively and aggressively represented her client.  See Matter of Colleen C.C., 232 A.D.2d 787 (3rd Dept. 1996).  Removal of the law guardian for failure to discharge her responsibilities are rare.


*  *  *

In Camera Interviews



            In Lincoln v. Lincoln, 24 N.Y.2d 270, 299 N.Y.S.2d 842, 843 (1969), the Court of Appeals approved the conducting of in camera interviews of children in custody proceedings over the parent’s objection that such procedure would allow the court to rely upon “secret evidence.”  Acknowledging that the children’s interests in custody proceedings were “paramount” and that “[t]he rights of the parents, must, in the case of conflict, yield to that superior demand,” the court observed:


It requires no great knowledge of child psychology to recognize that a child, already suffering from the trauma of a broken home, should not be placed in the position of having its relationship with either parent further jeopardized by having to publicly relate its difficulties with them or be required to openly choose between them.


299 N.Y.S.2d at 843.  Realizing that children in this position required reassurance that their confidences would be respected, the Court of Appeals sanctioned the practice of conducting in camera interviews in the absence of the parties’ counsel.


            A stenographic record of the in camera interview of a child in a custody/visitation proceeding must be made.  N.Y. Civ. Prac. R. 4019 (a); F.C.A. §664(a).  The transcript of an in camera interview should be sealed and made available only to the Appellate Division.  (Commentary, Standard C-5; Ladd v. Bellavia, 151 A.D.2d 1015, 542 N.Y.S.2d 81, 82 (4th Dept. 1989)).  Since the interview is confidential, the judge should not divulge information about what was said to the parties.


            In camera testimony of children in custody cases is not mandatory, but rather discretionary.  Farnham, 675 N.Y.S.2d at 246.  In camera interviews were not meant to be ordered as a matter of course in every case, particularly where the child is represented by a zealous Law Guardian.  McGrath v. Collins, 202 A.D.2d 719, 608 N.Y.S.2d 556, 558 (3d Dept. 1994) (whether to conduct in camera interview is within discretion of court and determination must be made on a case-by-case basis).  See also Chase v. Reome, 289 A.D.2d 894, 734 N.Y.S.2d 911, 912 (3d Dept. 2001) (failure to conduct in camera interview deemed “inconsequential” where Law Guardian “communicated her [sixteen-year-old] client’s clear preference not to be placed in petitioner’s custody” and child had recently rejected petitioner’s invitation to live with her); Farnham, 675 N.Y.S.2d at 246 (no abuse of discretion in declining to order in camera testimony, “especially considering the young ages of the children, who were three and five years old at the time of the hearing”).


            As the NYSBA Standards recognize, “even in camera testimony may be traumatic to the young client.”  (Commentary, Standard B-3).  Therefore there are some circumstances in which an in camera interview may not be advisable.  For example:


·        The child may be too young to offer much information or articulate his or her feelings;


·        The child may be subjected to emotional stress and pressure from each or both parents and therefore be further traumatized by the interview process;


·        The child may be opposed or reluctant to being questioned in any manner about the issues;


·        The child has proven vulnerable to inappropriate influence by one or both parties and the information conveyed would be thereby tainted;


Thus the court must be cognizant of these issues before ordering an in camera interview.


At the same time, an in camera interview provides the court with an opportunity to meet and speak with the child directly and to make an independent assessment of the child’s needs and wishes.  By assuring the child of the confidentiality of the interview, the court can encourage the child to express his or her true wishes and concerns and can engage the child in a discussion relevant to the issues.  A sensitive and perceptive judge can also use the interview to assist the child in understanding the legal process and its impact on him/her.  Although the law guardian meets frequently with the child and convey pertinent information and his/her wishes to the court, the legal process and its effect on the family create anxiety and uncertainty for the child.  For some children, the in camera interview gives him/her a sense of empowerment and may alleviate the child’s feelings of helplessness as decisions are made.  For most children, the in camera interview can be a positive experience and is often important to the court’s decision making process.



Last updated January 13, 2005

Return to Table of Contents


[1] The New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Children and the Law published the Law Guardian Representation Standards, Vol. II, Custody Cases in November 1999.