Many of the subjects that we’ve discussed so far in our discussion
of Texas Family Law Courts are very well known.
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.
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
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
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:
- Incarcerated during the three month period prior to your having filed the lawsuit
- Found to be incompetent by a court
- Is Deceased
- 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
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.