Texas Family Law Courts: The role of an ad litem in your divorce

Many of the subjects that we’ve discussed so far in our discussion of Texas Family Law Courts are very well known. Child support, property division upon divorce and child custody are all concepts that immediately come to mind when considering the implications of filing a divorce or child custody case in Texas. They may even be issues that have kept you awake at night due to your not knowing exactly how everything is going to fall into place for your particular case.

On the other end of the spectrum are circumstances that occur in many family law cases in Texas but do not immediately jump to mind for most folks. One of those issues are ad litem representatives being appointed to your case. It is possible that not only have you not considered this subject much, but that you’ve also never even heard the term before. The purpose of today’s blog is to explore this subject in greater detail and to help you process how an ad litem can impact the lives or you and your family.

Ad litem defined for a family law case in Texas

The word “ad litem” may have multiple definitions if you were to go online and look up all the different contexts in which it is applicable for. However, for our purposes we can think of an ad litem as a person who is appointed by a judge (either by the request of a party to a lawsuit or at the motion of the judge him or herself) whose role in the case is to protect the interests of a child or other party that is involved in the case.

For the most part, it is children that the ad litem ends up representing but this is not always the case. Persons that are declared mentally incompetent are represented by an ad litem in many instances due to their inability to understand and process the proceedings of a case themselves.

In many CPS cases ad litem attorneys are appointed to search for a missing parent who has not answered the court’s notification of a legal case that involves him or her. The ad litem would utilize whatever contact information is available to him or her and will seek to locate and inform the parent of the proceedings. If the parent cannot be located the ad litem reports back to the judge with that information.

Amicus attorney vs. Ad litem attorney

An amicus attorney functions in some of the same ways as an ad litem attorney but acts more so as the eyes and ears of the court outside of the courtroom. The amicus attorney conducts interviews of the parties, children and other relevant persons involved in your divorce or child custody case and reports directly to the judge with their opinions.

A judge is tasked with making decisions that are in the best interests of the children involved. The amicus attorney does their job with this responsibility in mind and will assist the court as much as possible in this endeavor. The amicus attorney does not work for either party individually or a child of the case. The amicus is an independent practitioner that is appointed by the judge to help the judge with decision making.

Grandparent Visitation in Texas Family Law Cases

Let’s jump around some and discuss what rights grandparents have in Texas to visitation with their grandchildren. The idea of the “nuclear family” as portrayed in such famous television shows as “Leave it to Beaver”, is fast becoming a structure of the past. Today, blended and multi generational households are becoming much more commonplace. With grandparents living with grandchildren more and more it would make some sense that they would have a special role to play in the upbringing of children. You may even be under the impression that as a result of that “special” relationship, grandparents are afforded special rights to visitation with their grandchildren no matter if the child’s parents remain married.

The fact is that grandparents do not have special rights carved out for visitation in Texas. The law in Texas is such that if a parent denies a grandparent visitation it is assumed that the parent is acting in the best interest of the child. However, grandparents can file their own lawsuits to gain visitation or can even see to modify prior orders that were already in place. The law is such that grandparents will not have an easy time winning a case, however. Let’s discuss some of the circumstances where a grandparent could be successful in attempting to gain visitation with their grandchildren.

First and foremost, a grandparent must be the biological or adopted grandparent of a child in order to proceed with a lawsuit. This means that if you are a step grand parent that you are out of luck and cannot be awarded visitation as a result of a family lawsuit in Texas. Your child’s parent rights to your grandchild must remain in place in order to proceed with a lawsuit as well.

A judge will need to determine that your being deniedvisitation with your grandchild will impair your grandchild’s physical health and emotional well being. The last requirement that you must meet is that it is necessary to show the court that you are the grandparent of a child whose parent (your child) has been:

  1. Incarcerated during the three month period prior to your having filed the lawsuit
  2. Found to be incompetent by a court
  3. Is Deceased
  4. Does not have court ordered possession or access to your grandchild

With this number of requirements in mind it is critical to make sure that you have a strong case prior to proceeding to court. I would advise you to meet with an attorney to learn about your rights and your circumstances prior to filing suit.

Questions on ad litem attorneys, grandparent rights or any other subject in family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today

If you have additional questions on any of the subject matter we’ve discussed today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our licensed family law attorneys is available six days a week to meet with you to answer questions in a free of charge consultation.

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