Minors in DV cases should get counsel, New Jersey court says

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01/01/2010, Litigation, Domestic Violence - Alleged Victim

A chancery court in New Jersey found that a minor plaintiff in a DV restraining order case was entitled to a GAL under various court rules, since she was a party to the proceedings and the New Jersey Court rules authorized such a GAL. J.L. v. G.D., --- A.3d ----, 2010 WL 7800941 ( N.J. Super. Ch. 2010). But then the court went further and held that where such a minor plaintiff was opposed by an adult defendant represented by counsel (privately retained, in this case), the GAL should be a licensed attorney. The minor plaintiff was 17 years old and had been dating the defendant, who was 20 years old. The court, which raised the issue of counsel sua sponte, based its actions on its general parens patriae power of the court and on its perception that while the court rules permitted the minor's parents to serve as the minor's GAL, the parents would not have the training to effectively represent her in her case against a party defended by counsel (and also the parents hadn't appeared with the minor at the DV hearing).

 

The Supreme Court of New Jersey appeared to approve of this ruling, as it cited to J.L. in support of the proposition that "Certain categories of litigants in civil, probate, and family court matters, such as minors or persons determined to be mentally incapacitated, are afforded special protections which may include appointment of counsel and/or a fiduciary." In re Civil Commitment of D.Y., --- A.3d ----, 2014 WL 3677914 (N.J. 2014).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes