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Attorneys Ad Litem and Amicus Attorneys in Family Law Cases

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This article provides an overview of attorneys ad litem and amicus attorneys in family law cases.

 

What is an attorney ad litem?

An attorney ad litem is an attorney appointed to provide legal services to a person (such as a parent, child, or an incapacitated person). An attorney ad litem has an attorney-client relationship with the person she is appointed to represent and owes that person the duties of her undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. An attorney ad litem is an advocate for the person she is appointed to represent, and will express the person’s wishes to the court or jury. Family law cases where a court might appoint an attorney ad litem include CPS proceedings, child custody cases, divorces, name changes, and suits for adoption, among others.

 

 

How do I ask for an attorney ad litem?

Each court establishes and maintains a list of all attorneys who are qualified to serve as an attorney ad litem and are registered with the court. In cases where appointment of an attorney ad litem is mandatory, such as suits brought by government entities seeking termination of the parent-child relationship, the court will appoint an attorney ad litem on its own motion. In cases where appointment of an attorney ad litem is discretionary, a private party can file a motion for appointment of an attorney ad litem. Because the process can vary county-to-county, TexasLawHelp.org does not provide forms for requesting an attorney ad litem.

 

Is there a difference between an amicus attorney and an attorney ad litem?

Yes. In short, the focus of an amicus attorney is to provide legal services to the court, while the focus of an attorney ad litem is to provide legal services to a person.

An “amicus attorney” is an attorney appointed by the court in a private family law case, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a person's best interests. For example, an amicus attorney might be appointed in your case if the court feels that it needs assistance protecting the best interests of your child. In that situation, the amicus attorney would have conversations with you, your child, and any other parties involved, make home visits, interview other people with knowledge of your case (such as teachers, doctors, and relatives), and attend hearings and mediation. The amicus attorney would then use that information to make a recommendation to the court about the best interest of the child.

 

If an amicus attorney is appointed in your case, it is important to understand that the amicus attorney does not represent you or your child, and neither you nor your child are the amicus attorney’s client. An attorney ad litem, on the other hand, is appointed to provide legal services for a person and advocate for their wishes. Whether the client is the parent or the child, the Attorney Ad Litem owes the client complete loyalty, confidentiality in all communications and diligent and competent representation.

My case type requires an attorney ad litem and I cannot afford one. What do I do?

The Texas Family Code provides for publicly funded legal representation of indigent parties involved in suits brought by government entities seeking termination of the parent-child relationship. Speak with the district clerk in your county to learn about publicly-funded legal representation in these types of cases. Read the law here: Tex. Fam. Code §§ 107.251 to 107.262.

 

In cases where the appointment of an attorney ad litem is discretionary, however, the county will not pay for the services of an attorney ad litem, regardless of the parties’ indigence. In determining whether to appoint an attorney ad litem in these cases, the court is required to: (1) consider the ability of the parties to pay reasonable fees to the appointee; and (2) take into consideration the cost of available alternatives for resolving issues without making an appointment. The court can appoint an attorney ad litem only if it finds that the appointment is necessary to ensure the determination of the best interests of the child. Read the law here: Tex. Fam. Code §§ 107.021

 

Where can I read the law about attorneys ad litem and amicus attorneys?

Read the laws about attorneys ad litem and amicus attorneys in Chapter 107 of the Texas Family Code.