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Legal Access

California minors are granted an extensive set of legal access rights as set forth in the state's statutes and court procedures. In some circumstances, a minor can even appear in court without the use of a representative. A minor at least 12 years old may appear in court for the purpose of requesting or opposing an injunction or restraining order to prohibit harassment, violence, or the threat of violence in the workplace, or a protective order.269 For all other proceedings, a guardian, conservator, or GAL must represent any unemancipated minor.270 However, a minor may enforce rights in a civil action or other legal proceedings in the same manner as an adult, except that a guardian must conduct the action or proceedings.271 The reason for this is that a minor cannot give a delegation of authority, make a contract relating to real property or any interest therein, or make a contract relating to any personal property not in the immediate possession or control of the minor.272

Unlike many states, a minor in California may institute her own proceedings as long as she has a representative.273 The minor is fully entitled to petition the court for a GAL or next friend to be her representative. Furthermore, any interested party may file a petition to provide a GAL or next friend for the minor.274 Generally, a parent of the minor is given preferential treatment for the appointment as GAL; however, the court is not bound in appointing a parent, and can listen to the wishes of the minor in choosing whom to appoint as representative.275

In all civil actions, a minor plaintiff 14 years of age or older must apply for a GAL before the summons is issued.276 A plaintiff minor under 14 years of age must have a friend or relative apply.277 A defendant minor 14 years of age or older may apply within ten days after service of summons.278 A defendant minor 14 years of age or older who neglected to apply or under 14 years old must have a friend, relative, any party to the action, or the court apply.279 The court may also, on its own, or on the request of an interested person, appoint a GAL at any stage of the proceedings for a minor or group of minors if not precluded by a conflict of interest.280 The reasonable expenses are paid by the estate, interested person(s), or other such funds as the court deems proper.281 Even after the GAL is appointed, the minor must be represented by an attorney who's role would be to represent the wishes of the minor rather than the best interests of the minor.282 The role of the attorney is to represent the wishes of his or her client, including that of a minor client.283

California makes every attempt to provide legal services for the minors of the state. Minors can initiate court proceedings and have extensive legal rights that can be enacted, at times, without the need for a representative. California would be a good state to look at for recommendations for increasing the legal rights of minors in Massachusetts.


Cal. Civ. Pro. 372 (West 2002).
Cal. Fam. Code Ann. 6601 (West 2002).
Cal. Fam. Code Ann. 6701 (West 2002).
In Re Cahill, 74 Cal. 52 (1887).
Cal. Fam. Code Ann. 7804 (West 2002).
2 Cal. Affirmative Def. 18:3 (West 2002).
Cal. Civ. Pro. 373 (West 2002).
Ca. Prob. Code Ann. 1003 (West 2002).
Robyn-Marie Lyon, Comment: Speaking for a Child: The Role of Independent Counsel for Minors, 75 Calif. L. Rev. 681, 695 (1987).

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Next: Shelter Restrictions Up: California Previous: Mature Minor   Contents   Index
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