Going through divorce and/or child custody proceedings can put an immense amount of stress on those involved. Because these cases often involve sensitive information, as well as information concerning minor children, they can require additional legal assistance by court appointed attorneys. Since there are multiple types of court appointed attorneys for minors, understanding their roles and how they assist in family court proceedings is important.
In certain court proceedings, it is necessary to have the involvement of other advocates to attest to the best interests of those involved. With regard to family law, this is especially true for cases that involve children, such as divorce, child custody, adoption, child protective services (CPS) proceedings, name changes, and others. The Texas Family Code outlines the specific powers and duties associated with court appointed attorney advocates who can be involved in family law cases, some of which include:
Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is a “guardian at law,” representing the interests of a person involved in a court case. The most common types of cases in which a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent a minor are family law and probate. These are often lawyers but do not have to be. They do not solely work with children and may represent others – such as the elderly or a person whose competence is under review or being adjudicated. The court can appoint a guardian ad litem and/or any party involved in the case can request one.
Family courts use a guardian ad litem to research and express the best interests of a minor child or children because the parents are often not able to maintain objectivity and/or divorcing spouses and their family law attorneys may not be able to agree on custody arrangements. This third party helps provide a neutral analysis of the situation. A guardian ad litem’s goal is to help the court fairly examine all sides and recommend what arrangement would be best for the child or children.
Attorney Ad Litem
The court can appoint an ad litem attorney on its own or on the motion of one or both of the parties. When there is a suspected case of child abuse or neglect or where CPS takes court action to terminate parental rights or to make CPS the conservator, a court must appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the child or children. The costs are often split between the parties. A case will take longer with an ad litem because their job is to conduct a thorough examination of both parties to help ensure the judge makes a decision that is in the best interest of the subject child or children.
The Texas Family Code defines an attorney ad litem as “an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child.” In family law cases, a minor often does not have a legal representative unless the Court appoints one. When such representation is needed, the Court would handle such an appointment.
An amicus attorney is a court appointed attorney who will act on behalf of the judge outside of the courtroom. For a judge making decisions about what is in the best interest of your child or children, having a better idea about what goes on outside of court can be helpful in their decision making.
An amicus attorney (as opposed to an ad litem attorney) does not represent the child (or children) or either party. An amicus attorney will assist the court in making decisions regarding where the child or children should primarily reside, what rights and duties each parent should have, and other such important issues. Although similar to an attorney ad litem, an amicus attorney does not represent a specific client. They are advocates for the child’s or children’s best interests, but not for the child or children personally.
The amicus attorney will conduct a thorough examination of both parents to help ensure the judge makes the best decision for the child or children involved. These examinations usually involve interviews with each parent, as well as with the minor children, in addition to subpoenaed information from doctors, schools, therapists, and youth programs. The amicus attorney then makes recommendations to the court based on their findings.
Brazoria County Family Law Attorneys
Cases that involve divorce or the custody of a child or children can be complex and often require additional legal assistance. At Terry & Roberts, we’ve handled many different types of family law cases and know first hand just how difficult these proceedings can be. If you or someone you know is in need of an experienced Brazoria County family law attorney, we can help to provide the compassionate representation you need. Contact us today for more information on how we can best assist you.