At the end of a child custody hearing in which Council for Children’s Rights is involved, it is customary for CFCR to provide its position to the judge as to what custodial arrangement CFCR believes will be in the best interest of the minor child involved. A judge is not bound by CFCR’s position in a child custody case. However, we find that judges usually closely follow CFCR recommendations in most child custody cases, which makes sense, given the amount of time, resources, and the depth at which CFCR’s investigates each child custody case in which they are involved.
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Prism Family Law Firm, 02/21/2018
* Please note that the following is a brief overview of a complex legal subject and is not meant to provide legal advice. When involved in a child custody dispute, it is important to consult with a family lawyer in your area who is familiar with your local rules and procedures. If your matter is located in Mecklenburg or Cabarrus counties, our Charlotte child custody lawyers can help. Contact Prism today at 704-412-1442 to speak to an attorney.
Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR) is a non-profit child advocacy group in Mecklenburg County, NC that provides a number of services. The purpose of this blog is to focus on CFCR's role in child custody cases. A judge must appoint CFCR prior to the organization becoming involved in a child custody case. After being appoint, CFCR typically provides a child advocate, a volunteer attorney, and a staff attorney to offer the court an opinion as to the best interest of the child in child custody cases. Many times when CFCR is appointed in a child custody case, it is because there is some concern about the best interest of the child, which the court feels should be investigated by an independent third party, who is concerned not with the success of mom or dad (as mom’s lawyer or dad’s lawyer are for their respective clients), but who is interested only in the child’s best interest and the circumstances which will affect the child. These concerns may range from substance abuse, domestic violence or child abuse, mental health of the parents or child, or a sub-par living environment or unstable living conditions. Council for Children’s Rights can be appointed on the court’s own initiative, or by motion of either party. Ultimately, the court will decide whether or not a child advocate or guardian ad litem will be useful in helping determine the living arrangement which is in the best interest of the child.
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The appointment of Council for Children’s Rights does involve an additional cost. Each parent will pay a certain fee to CFCR for their appointment to the case, regardless of who (whether the other parent or the judge) asked for the appointment of CFCR. The cost to each parent is based on each parent’s individual income, and is a one-time flat fee. However, additional costs may be required for completion of any ordered assessments or evaluations.
When involved in a child custody dispute, the basic goal of Council for Children’s Rights is to develop an understanding of the child’s situation and circumstances affecting the child’s life, in order to form an opinion and advise the court of the living situation in which the child would thrive. In short, CFCR represents the interests of the minor child. A volunteer attorney, a child advocate, and a staff attorney will be appointed to each case. If you have an attorney, CFCR will send your attorney a form to fill out indicating whether and in what situations the staff and volunteers appointed to your case can speak with you alone, and when they should contact your attorney prior to speaking with you. The volunteer attorney and child advocate will work most closely with mom and dad, but will reach out to other parties that may serve as witnesses as to the character of the parents involved. During their investigation, the volunteer attorney and child advocate will set up a home visit to meet with each parent in his or her home in order to get a better idea of the child’s living environment with both parents. The volunteers and staff assigned to your case will typically also set up a time for each parent to bring the child in to CFCR’s office to speak with the child and observe the interactions between the child and the parent.
Council for Children’s Rights’ staff and volunteers do not typically talk to the child about the ongoing litigation between their parents, or any conflict between their parents. They may ask questions of the child to help them understand the impacts of the concerns the judge had which lead to Council for Children’s Rights being appointed in the first place. CFCR’s primary concern is the child and what custody arrangement will benefit the child the most.
In some cases, depending on the issues presented, Council for Children’s Rights may request that the court order a substance abuse assessment or a mental health assessment of one or both parents. They may also suggest a parenting capacity evaluation, or a full custody evaluation. These are all assessments/evaluations which help the judge to determine the extent to which certain issues presented may affect each party’s parenting capabilities. It is important to comply with any recommended or ordered evaluations, as these will most likely have an impact on the CFCR’s recommendation, and the court’s final decision.dial parent.
Council for Children’s Rights will take the position that they do not take sides between the parents, only the side of the child. However, ultimately, they will be making a recommendation to the court as to what is in the best interests of the child when it comes to spending more or less time at one party's residence vs. the other party's residence. Therefore, it is important to have CFCR in your corner if you are hoping to "win" your child custody case. In order to help Council for Children’s Rights make a recommendation, it is important that they have all the facts. Make sure you, or your attorney, are communicating with them when issues arise with the child. If there are any incidents involving the other party which would cause a concern for the child’s well-being, you want to make CFCR aware of the incident immediately. However, it is also important that if there is an incident in which you are involved, you contact CFCR through your attorney immediately so that you can explain the situation before the other party paints you in the worst possible light (and so that it doesn’t come across as if you are “tattling” on the other party at every possible opportunity, but hiding your own faults).
Although it is important to contact CFCR when there is something to report, and to keep the lines of communication open, I do want to qualify this statement. You should not contact Council for Children’s Rights because you simply do not like how the other parent handled a situation. You should also not direct CFCR to take action based on your concerns. CFCR has compiled a very competent team of staff and volunteers. They are not appointed to your case to respond to your demands, but to help guide the decision in your case. It will not help your case for you to constantly and overzealously contact CFCR with every minor disagreement between you and the other parent, or to expect that they respond to your demands for action. CFCR is not there to represent you or your interest. It is still your job, or your attorney’s job, to take appropriate action to address concerns which affect the child’s safety or physical/mental/emotional well-being with the court.
Also, and maybe more obviously, be on your best behavior. You know the issues that have caused concern for the judge, so avoid doing things that could exacerbate those concerns.
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