Kids First is the only organization in Iowa that provides free and reduced-cost representation to children in divorce and custody cases. Kids First’s attorneys represent school-age children in high-conflict family law cases in Linn, Johnson, Polk, and some parts of Dallas County.
Why Do Kids Need a Lawyer?
The outcome of a custody case affects the child more than anyone else, so children deserve an advocate.
In high-conflict custody disputes, litigation often lasts years and children frequently witness fighting between parents. Exposure to parents fighting and badmouthing each other puts children at risk to:
Suffer from severe behavioral/emotional problems
Fail in school
Abuse drugs and alcohol
Have failed relationships as adults
Many Kids First families have struggled with domestic violence, substance abuse, and/or mental health issues. Kids need a trusted, neutral person they can confide in. Often, a Kids First attorney is the only professional working one-on-one with a child. A child’s attorney can help keep everyone’s focus on the child’s needs and concerns.
When Should a Child Have a Lawyer?
Children may benefit from an advocate when there is:
A high level of conflict between parents
A child with strong views
Family violence, drug/alcohol issues, or mental health problems
Inappropriate adult influence or manipulation
Interference with custody or parenting time
A child who is expected to be called as a witness
To learn more about appointing a Kids First Attorney, click here.
What are the Benefits of Working with Kids First?
Children have less anxiety when they know what to expect and have a trusted adult to confide in. When kids are freed from worrying about parents fighting, kids can be kids again. They can return their focus to school, activities, and friends.
Parents learn how to lessen conflict and improve communication. Kids First helps parents understand their child’s perspective. Cases are more likely to settle when a child’s attorney is involved, avoiding the cost and stress of trial. Parents who settle are also less likely to return to court later. In cases that go to trial, Kids First can help judges make more fully-informed decisions.
Who Pays for These Services?
Kids First is a nonprofit organization funded primarily by individual gifts and grants. Although Kids First attorneys are court-appointed, they are not funded by the court. The representation is free when parents’ incomes are below 250% of the poverty guidelines. For higher income families, Kids First provides services on a sliding fee scale.
To learn more about the role of a Kids First attorney, click here.