As a family lawyer, we often get a question from our clients, and that is, at what age can a child have their own solicitor?
Well, when it comes to having your own solicitors or getting a lawyer, a child has to be 12 years old.
Actually, when family law is concerned, children also have rights and will be given a greater voice in the family justice system. If necessary, they should be involved in the hearing in the family court and tell judges about their thinking about the family disputes they are involved in.
Can a Child Have Their Own Solicitor?
Yes, children can have their own solicitors, and they can be represented by a solicitor in any of the following situations.
- When a representative is needed for the child’s to protect their interests.
- If the child is mature enough to instruct the solicitor and wants to give an opinion to the judge.
- When the parents are so busy with their own issues, they cannot decide what is best for their children.
In these cases, the following will decide for a child to have a lawyer.
- When required, judges will appoint a lawyer to protect the child’s interest. Usually, judges do this on their own or when one of the parents requests.
- The child’s guardian will appoint a solicitor to act for the children, and then the children can instruct the solicitor.
- Lastly, children can decide for themselves that they need a lawyer, and on behalf of the child, the lawyer will intervene in the parent’s dispute.
When Does a Child Need Their Own Solicitor?
Generally, there are two situations when children need their own solicitor.
- First, if the child suffered physical or emotional harm, and
- Second, if the child wants to enforce their rights.
In both these cases, if the child is unable to obtain legal representation, the court will provide legal representations to the child.
Apart from these, in some other cases, the court will appoint a lawyer for the child. For example,
- When the parents disagree about the custody and visitation,
- If the parents are worried about the child’s safety, like abuse, neglect, or delinquency cases.
- When there are questions about paternity.
At What Age Can a Child Have Their Own Solicitor?
The children Act gives children a voice, and your children are allowed to have their own solicitor. But, is there any age limit or at what age can a child have their own solicitor?
In terms of law, getting a solicitor means “instructing a solicitor.” If a child is mature enough to understand court proceedings and instruct a solicitor, the court will consider their opinion.
In this case, children 12 years of age or older can have their own lawyer or solicitors. So, if required, the judge may decide to listen to the children, or the judge may decide for the children. However, it is up to the lawyer to decide whether the child has the ability to direct or not.
What Does A Child Solicitor Do?
As family law solicitors in Dublin, we understand how stressful as well as emotional it can be when a case involves children. That’s why it is essential for every solicitor to make the process as little stressed as possible. There are certain roles that a child’s solicitor plays. So, a child can expect the lawyer to-
- Listen to their issues, feelings, and thinking,
- Give advice in accordance,
- Explain the possible consequences and discuss potential solutions,
- Respecting the terms of the mandate (assignment) that the child gave the lawyer,
- Represent the child in court and explain what the child wants, and
- Keep the information confidential.
On the other side, if the case is about custody or child protection, the lawyer should-
- Explain to the child what does it mean to have a lawyer;
- In case of custody and access, the solicitor will meet the parents or those asking for custody;
- Meet the child to built trust;
- Review all the documents;
- Must observe child’s behavior with parents;
- Make sure to determine the child’s views and preferences;
- Taking a stand on what to do in the case on behalf of the child; and
- Attend and convey to the court on behalf of the child about their thinking.
Lawyers must explain the child’s opinion to the judge on behalf of the child. They will not give their own opinions. This role is true even if the child is influenced by his or her parents.
Who Pays for The Child’s Lawyer?
Based on the parent’s financial situation, the court will decide how much each parent must pay. If no parent is able to pay, the court may order the state to pay the legal fees. That means the following can pay for the child’s lawyer-
- One or both parents,
- Legal aid,
- Legal aid pays and then asks the parents to pay back the fees.
So, at what age can a child have their own solicitor?
Well, in general, a child with 12 years and above is sufficient to demonstrate their problems and instruct the solicitors better.
There are many times when children are needed to be a part of the proceeding. In fact, when proceedings are brought by the local authority, a child will automatically be part of the proceedings.
However, often children need a separate solicitor to represent them in court. In that case, the solicitor determines if they can take instruction from the child or whether the child can instruct them correctly.