In California, Minor's Counsel is an attorney appointed by the court to represent a child or children. Minor's Counsel only represents the child and does not represent the parents in any capacity. Minor’s Counsel can be chosen by the parties and then ordered by the Court. The Court also has the power to appoint Minor’s Counsel without either party requesting such appointment. It is common for Judges to utilize Minor's Counsel is cases where there are allegations of child abuse, neglect, alienation, or substance abuse.
The role of Minor's Counsel is to determine what is in the best interest of the child and determine what the minor's preference is if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody.” (Family Code 3042). Ms. Vandergrift looks into the pertinent issues relating to the specific child. As Minor’s Counsel, Ms. Vandergrift works diligently to investigate any allegations and all facts available. Ms. Vandergrift reviews all relevant documents, CPS reports, police reports, police records, and interviews parents, the child and collateral witnesses as necessary. Minor's Counsel also has access to the child's records, including medical and school records and has the right to interview any relevant person in the child's life, including teachers, doctors, and therapists. Minor’s Counsel’s duties and obligations are solely to the child. Upon completion of the investigation, Ms. Vandergrift makes an oral report to the parties and their counsel and attempts settlement. If settlement is unsuccessful, Ms. Vandergrift makes her report to the Court. The report will include all recommendations that Ms. Vandergrift believes to be in her client’s best interest, including a specific visitation schedule. Over a third of Ms. Vandergrift’s clients are minor children and it is her favorite part of the job.
Ms. Vandergrift is available for Court appointment in Los Angeles and San Bernardino County. Additionally, she is available to act as mediator using her skills as Minor’s Counsel to fashion creative and workable agreements between parents who prefer keeping their parenting decisions outside of Court.