Representing Children in Child Custody CasesIn August of 2003, the American Bar Association House of Delegates approved standards for practice applying to attorneys representing children in custody cases as written by the ABA family law section. Even if you might feel comfortable teaching this material, it is still useful to scan through from time to time and it might just jog your memory or lead to one of those “light-bulb” moments.

If you are a new Texas AFCC member, it is useful to spend some time on the AFCC website where all chapter members can use their username and password to gain access to a large resource library.

The full article containing these approved standards is available for Texas AFCC members in the Practice Guidelines and Standards area of the Resources page on the parent AFCC website.

Excerpt from the introduction: “Children deserve to have custody proceedings conducted in a manner least harmful to them and most likely to provide judges with the facts needed to decide the case. By adopting these Standards, the American Bar Association sets a standard for good practice and consistency in the appointment and performance of lawyers for children in custody cases.[i]

Here is an outline of the 29 pages of the content in the 2003 approved standards for lawyers representing children in custody cases (A real issue spotting bonanza):

  • Introduction Scope and Definitions
    • Scope
    • Definition
  • Duties of All Lawyers for Children
    • Accepting Appointment
    • Lawyer’s Roles
    • Independence
    • Initial Tasks
    • Meeting With the Child
    • Pretrial Responsibilities
    • Hearings
    • Appeals
    • Enforcement
    • End of Representation
  • Child’s Attorneys
    • Ethics and Confidentiality
    • Informing and Counseling the Client
    • Client Decisions
    • Appeals
    • Obligations after Initial Disposition
    • End of Representation
  • Best Interests Attorneys
    • Ethics
    • Confidentiality
    • Limited Appointments
    • Explaining Role to the Child
    • Investigations
    • Advocating the Child’s Best Interests
    • Appeals
  • Courts
    • Appointment of Lawyers
    • Training
    • Compensation
    • Caseloads
    • Physical Accommodations
    • Immunity
  • Appendix with Forms and Templates

Are you involved in the ABA? Their Family Law Section? Maybe these standards are ripe for updates?

With 15 years passing since the adoption of these ABA practice standards, some things might have changed in the law and in practice. That said, the revision of practice standards is something that requires a good deal of time and effort. Having been involved in ABA sections in the past, I recall the amount of collaborative work that goes into the creation of bodies of wisdom, such as these standards.

Getting involved in the ABA Family Law Section may be an attractive option for anyone who works in the family law industry, including mental health professionals. And while the ABA may not be as niche of an organization as AFCC, our members may have something to contribute to the overall betterment of family practice and the best interests of children nationwide.

By Nick Augustine, Lone Star Content Marketing

Texas AFCC Content Coordinator



[i] AFCC website, American Bar Association Section of Family Law Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases, Approved by the American Bar Association House of Delegates August 2003.

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