The short answer is simple: make your displeasure known, to both the attorney for the child AND the court itself, IMMEDIATELY! The best advice is the most obvious: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Call, write, text, and/or email the attorney for the child and timely return all of the attorney for the child’s calls, letters, texts, and emails. And make sure to document ALL of your attempts to contact and/or meet with the attorney for the child. Nothing quite gets an attorney’s attention like a letter sent by certified mail, return receipt requested!
If that still doesn’t work, then you may have the option of hiring your own attorney to represent your child, or of having a family member do so, but it can be complicated if only because the law is not exactly clear on this issue.
Attorneys for the child (AFC or AFTC) are often appointed by supreme court, family court , and surrogate’s court judges in actions or proceedings involving the welfare of children.
Sometimes these appointments are purely discretionary, as may be the case in some child support proceedings (Article 4, 5-A, and 5-B proceedings), paternity proceedings (Article 5 proceedings), custody proceedings (Article 6 proceedings), and family offense proceedings (Article 8 proceedings).
At other times, these appointments are constitutionally or statutorily mandated, as in juvenile delinquency (JD) proceedings (Article 3 proceedings), persons in need of supervision (PINS) proceedings (Article 7 proceedings), abuse and/or neglect proceedings (Article 10 proceedings), foster care proceedings (Article 10-A and 10-B proceedings), and appeals (Article 11 “proceedings”).
And, sometimes, it’s very hard to tell, especially in complicated custody proceedings or in paternity proceedings involving the thorny legal doctrines of equitable estoppel, presumption of legitimacy, and res judicata, among others. In such cases, it’s always better for the court to err on the side of appointing an attorney for the child. Otherwise, there is always a good chance that such a matter could be overturned on appeal.
Furthermore, there is a current trend in the law for the courts to err on the side of appointing an attorney for the child even in less complicated custody proceedings, especially where the children in question are older and/or custody is highly disputed (as between multiple parties). See Albanese v. Lee, 272 A.D.2d 81, 707 N.Y.S.2d 171 (1st Dept., 2000), Betts v. Betts, 51 A.D.3d 699, 858 N.Y.S.2d 317 (2nd Dept., 2008), Amato v. Amato, 51 A.D.3d 1123, 857 N.Y.S.2d 778 (3rd Dept., 2008), and Arlene R. v. Wynette G., 37 A.D.3d 1044, 829 N.Y.S.2d 768 (4th Dept., 2007).
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