How Family Law CASA is Appointed
Unlike the Juvenile Court system, which mandates by law that children have their own legal representation and provides families with free legal counsel if needed, Family Law cases are not provided with this important advocacy. Children involved in Family Law cases do not have access to any free advocacy service - unless a Family Law Commissioner or Judge assigns Family Law CASA to the case.
The Family Law CASA Program is available to low and moderate income families. The Program takes Title 26 cases in which the combined annual gross income of both parents is $80,000 or less. If combined annual gross income is more than $40,000 but less than $80,000, the Program charges a $300-600 administrative fee. Third Party Petitioners are not charged the administrative fees as these are based on the parents' combined gross income. However, third party petitioners may be charged legal fees or costs for services listed beyond those listed below.
Family Law CASA may be assigned to a case in one of two ways:
- Judges and Commissioners in King County Superior Court can request that a CASA be assigned to the case, by signing an Order Appointing Family Law CASA to access Family Law CASA Program services.
- A party in a Family Law case (involving divorce, paternity, non-parental custody or modifications including relocations) can request that an Order Appointing Family Law CASA be signed by filing a motion asking to have Family Law CASA appointed.
Regardless of how Family Law CASA is assigned to the case, Judges and Commissioners make custody decisions for the parties, often utilizing the information provided by the CASA volunteer. Please see the Resources Section for mandatory court forms, a Motion for a Temporary Order, and links to community legal services for assistance with these forms. Family Law CASA does not prepare motions for appointment.
When parents in conflict choose sides, and allege problems such as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues and other personal failings, the resulting trauma to their children is rarely a primary consideration. It is natural for the invisible 'wounds' of this experience to impact any child's sense of well-being, value, and stability; it is not necessary for the consequences to haunt them for a lifetime. To mitigate the potential damage to children from custody disputes in the family law system, it is often desirable for children to have their own advocate. Judges often need an impartial outside evaluation of the issues impacting the children of families involved in contested family law cases.
Family Law CASA serves children from low to medium income families throughout King County involved in these types of custody cases involving allegations of substance abuse, domestic violence or mental illness. Specifically, the demographic of the families served is:
- More than 50% of the children are less than 6 years old
- 33% are people of color
- Most are living in two separate households with a combined income of $40,000 or less
- 40% of cases involve multiple allegations such as substance abuse and domestic violence
There is no constitutional right to an attorney for a parent or child in a family law case. As a result, many custody cases come into the court system with parties attempting to represent themselves. Even though parents may be unprepared and without complete legal representation, a Superior Court Judge or Commissioner must still make a custody decision – regardless of whether sufficient information reflecting the best interests of the child was provided. That’s why Family Law CASA’s work is so critical to meeting a child’s needs.
If you are interested in volunteering as a CASA, simply complete the Volunteer Application Form.