The ABA Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project ended in August, 2008. The final report of the Project, Enhancing the Representation of Children in Private Custody Cases: Resources and Lessons Learned from the ABA Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project, as well as the resources available below continue to provide guidance to all individuals and programs working to give a voice to children in private custody cases.
The Project’s mission was to enhance and expand the delivery of legal services to children involved in divorce, adoption, guardianship, unmarried parent, and civil protective order matters. With emphasis on identifying and developing “best practices,” training, and technical assistance and to design and implement programs and policies fostering children’s well-being and providing children meaningful participation to courts and pro bono programs, the Project served as a critical national resource in the important area of child custody.
The ABA’s Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project was a joint project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Family Law Section, and was administered by the ABA Center for Pro Bono. This project was made possible through the generous gift of Melita and William Grunow, in memory of their niece, Ann Liechty, a dedicated child law advocate and a 1998 recipient of the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award.
- A demonstrable increase in the number of pro bono child custody projects and opportunities, and a corresponding increase in the number of pro bono attorneys and children served.
- Higher quality representation to children in child custody matters.
- Implementation of innovative delivery strategies designed to expand legal services access for children involved in child custody matters.
- Children and parents who are better educated and informed about custody proceedings, results, and impacts.
- Heightened judicial sensitivity and knowledge in making decisions regarding children’s custody.
- Improved relationships between pro bono child custody attorneys and non-lawyer children’s advocates, including doctors, psychologists, social workers, and teachers.
- Greater support and participation in legislation impacting child custody matters.
- Improved coordination and communication among groups working at a national level on the complex issues involved in child custody.
Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases
The Project worked with the ABA Family Law Section on Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases. The Standards were adopted by the Family Law Section, and approved by the ABA House of Delegates in August 2003. The Standards present best practices for procedural, practical, and ethical issues faced by lawyers representing children in private custody cases. Based in part on these standards, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is preparing a Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect and Custody Proceedings Act. For the latest draft, see http://www.uniformlaws.org/Committee.aspx.