In court cases involving parents who disagree on issues involving their children, the court (or a government agency or guardian) have the option of requesting to have a neutral attorney involved to help determine what resolutions will be in the child’s best interest. This is when a Texas attorney ad litem or amicus attorney become involved in the case.
What is the difference between an amicus attorney and an attorney ad litem in Texas? While they perform very similar duties, their roles are different. The job of an attorney ad litem is to represent the child while the amicus attorney (appointed by a judge) works on behalf of the court.
What does an attorney ad litem do in Texas?
The job of an attorney ad litem in Texas is to advocate for the child wishes while ensuring those wishes are in the child’s best interest. They will provide legal guidance to the child and both of the parents while maintaining the confidentiality of the child. An attorney ad litem in Texas will gather information on the home life of the child while in each parent’s care, through interviews and home visits. They may also interview teachers and family friends. and the child’s best interests. The attorney ad litem may also subpoena school or medical records if needed, to assist them in understanding the full scope of the child’s daily life.
What does an amicus attorney do in Texas?
The biggest difference between an amicus attorney and an attorney ad litem is that an amicus attorney, while helping the court to protect the best interests of the child, does not have a ‘legal duty’ to the child in the way that the ad litem attorney does. As mentioned above, the amicus attorney is appointed by the judge and their job is to act as the eyes and ears of the court. In the case of the amicus attorney, they are not advocating for the needs of the child, they are advocating for what is in the best interest of the child.
Example of how a guardian ad litem and amicus attorney might make different recommendations to the court:
The parents are in court for a modification of the parenting plan. The child has lived solely with the mother for the last 7 years of their life while the father was working internationally. The father returns to the states and the parents begin following the 50/50 parenting plan they had in place prior to the father’s departure. A year later, the mother (who is the custodial parent) decides to move the children an hour away from the father as she has received a new, higher paying job. The children have stated that they ONLY want to live with their mother because they don’t really know their father. The ad litem attorney recommends to the court that the child be allowed to move with their mother, as they do not have an existing relationship with the father. In addition, forcing the child to live with the father will cause significant emotional trauma .
The amicus attorney, on the other hand, might recommend to the court that it is in the child’s best interest to have the children live with their father as it will keep them in their existing school district. They also note that the mother’s new job will require her to work in excess of 40 hours per week.
Who pays for an attorney ad litem or an amicus attorney in Texas family law cases?
In most situations, both parents will share in the cost. The exception is if the parent(s) have exhibited to the court that they are financially unable to share in the cost (sometimes referred to as indigent). Unfortunately, the cost can be very expensive as the attorney ad litem or amicus attorney will bill their time hourly. In addition to being costly, the involvement of an attorney ad litem or amicus attorney in Texas will take your case much longer to finalize as they must perform the home visits and interviews. It is in the best interests of the children for both parents to do everything possible to come to an agreement rather than escalate to the point of having the involvement of an attorney ad litem or amicus attorney.
The Fort Worth custody attorneys at Martin Oostdyk have experience in family law cases involving an attorney ad litem or amicus attorney in Texas, and know which ones are great and which ones to avoid. Please call us to set up a free consultation today.