Amicus vs. Attorneys Ad Litem in Texas—What’s the Difference?

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When parents disagree about issues involving their kids—child custody, visitation, rights, duties and the like—those differences need to be hashed out in court or mediation. In some cases, the court, parents, guardians or a government agency may request that a neutral attorney be brought in to help figure out what arrangements would be in the best interest of the child. That’s where amicus attorneys and attorney ad litem in Texas come in.

What is an amicus attorney?

An amicus lawyer, also known as an amicus curiae, is a neutral attorney appointed by a judge to assist in a court case and provide legal services related to children and their welfare. The term “amicus curiae” is Latin for “friend of the court.” An amicus attorney in Texas is there to provide the judge with information and recommendations based on their independent investigation and analysis to help the judge make an informed decision that is in the child’s best interests.

For a more detailed amicus attorney definition, please refer to the relevant sections of the Texas Family Code.

What is an attorney ad litem?

An attorney ad litem Texas lawyer is appointed by the courts to serve the interests of a child in a legal proceeding, typically related to child custody, visitation, or child protection cases. They are tasked with ensuring that the child’s voice is heard in court and that their rights are protected.

While many of the duties amicus attorneys and attorneys ad litem perform are similar, they do play different roles. The main difference is that the attorney ad litem (typically appointed at the request of the parents, a guardian, the judge or the government) represents the child, while the amicus attorney (appointed by the judge) works as an aide to the court.

What does an amicus attorney do in Texas?

While the amicus helps the court protect the best interests of the child, he or she does not have a legal duty to the child the way that an ad litem does. The amicus attorney’s role is to act as the eyes and ears of the judge and make recommendations to the court that he or she believes are in the best interest of the child—NOT to advocate for what the child wants.

These recommendations are based on home visits, interviews with the child, parents and other interested parties (relatives, teachers, doctors, other people who reside with the parents, etc.) and insight garnered during hearings and mediation sessions or through information requests.

What does an attorney ad litem do in Texas?

Along with giving legal guidance to the child (and both of the child’s parents), the attorney ad litem’s duties also include providing undivided loyalty, confidentiality and competent representation. Like the amicus attorney, the attorney ad litem gathers information through home visits, interviews and insight gathered at hearings and mediation. The attorney-client relationship between the attorney ad litem in Texas and the child is important, as it allows the attorney to better understand and advocate for the child’s interests.

(Both attorneys ad litem and amicus attorneys can request or subpoena information that sheds light on the child’s circumstances, like school and medical records.)

The big difference is that the ad litem DOES advocate for the child and the child’s wishes, provided those wishes are in the best interest of that child. For example, an amicus might find that dad’s house is not the perfect environment for the child. Perhaps the child has to share a room with a stepsibling, and there’s no yard outside to play in, while he gets his own room and a huge yard at mom’s house.

Conversely, an attorney ad litem who represents that child may find that the child wants to live with their dad and has good reason to do so. They prefer living with dad because mom is always traveling for work, while dad works from home and is proactive about playtime and learning activities outside the home.

Read about how a child’s preference is handled during custody disputes here.

Who pays for an amicus attorney?

In Texas, the costs associated with an amicus attorney are generally the parties’ responsibility in a legal case. Unless the parties are financially unable to pay, they are expected to cover the fees for the services of the amicus attorney.

It’s important to note that amicus attorneys can be expensive, with hourly rates being the typical basis for billing. The parties involved may need to split the fees equally, or if one party has more significant financial resources, they may be required to pay a larger portion.

It’s also worth noting that in Texas, the court will appoint an amicus attorney, meaning that the parties do not have the power to select their own.

Who pays for attorney ad litem?

Similar to an amicus attorney, the parents are responsible for an attorney ad litem in Texas Unless you’re indigent, you and the other parent will be responsible for paying for the amicus or ad litem’s fees—and they bill based on their hourly rate, which is expensive. The fees may be split equally or the parent with more financial means may be required to pitch in more.

Need an experienced child custody attorney in Tarrant County?

The knowledgeable child custody attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth are here to help. We have handled thousands of child custody cases since 2007. Our founder Justin Sisemore has also been actively involved in Tarrant County as both an amicus attorney and attorney ad litem, so he knows what you are up against.

To schedule a confidential case review with Justin, call our office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

Photo Source: Pexels

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