Will your child need to have an independent attorney appointed to represent her?

It may come as a surprise to you, but in the context of a legal case, your interests and those of your child may not be completely aligned. This is probably surprising to you because since your child has been born you have made decisions and behaved in ways that were intended to benefit your child. You go to work every day not because you want to necessarily, but because you know your child needs a home, food, clothing, etc. You cook your child healthy meals not because broccoli tastes better than French fries, but because you know your child’s body (and yours) functions better with vegetables as its energy source than fried food.

These are somewhat easy examples of how your interests align with those of your child. Parents are not often faced with circumstances where it can be argued that their interests differ from those of their children. Typically, what is good for you is also good for your child and vice versa. There really isn’t that much to think about in this regard for most circumstances that we find ourselves involved in.

However, that changes somewhat when you become involved in a family law case. The fact is that if your case is going in front of a judge that means you and your opposing party have different views on what is and what is not in your child’s best interests. It also means that you both believe that having your child reside primarily with you is in your child’s best interests. One of you will be shown to be incorrect by the outcome of a trial or hearing.

With this in mind, it is crucial for you to be able to understand that if your case goes to a hearing or trial it is possible that the judge in your case may appoint to represent your child’s interests. Acknowledging that your child may have different interests than you do and that placing your child with you in your home may not be in their best interests is a tough pill for most any parent to swallow. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will begin by discussing this topic in detail.

Think this case is important to you? It’s even more important to your child

Sometimes clients will lose sight of the underlying purpose of going through with their case. It is not to address supposed wrongs that have been committed against you by your spouse. It is not to attack your child’s mother for her having been unfaithful to you during your relationship. The personal grievances that you may have with your opposing party are not really going to be on the radar of the judge. Rather, it is what is in your child’s best interests that will be the guiding principle your judge will apply to your case.

Whatever is decided in your case has the potential to impact your child for years to come. You can always attempt to come back to court in order to modify any of the orders set down by the judge but for the most part, the decisions reached in your case can and will have far-reaching effects on your child, those effects are much more profound than the impacts felt by you and your opposing party. Your judge will want to do their best to ensure that your child is protected during the entirety of your case.

Court-appointed attorneys and their role in your family law case

As I mentioned in the opening to today’s blog post, it is sometimes necessary for the judge in your case to appoint an independent attorney that will represent your child’s interests as an individual. Where your child will end up living, from whom he or she will end up being cared by and the ability of either parent to bestow appropriate techniques for developing into a productive member of society are just a few reasons why a judge’s job is so difficult. With these difficulties in mind, we can see just why an extra set of eyes and ears can be beneficial from a judge’s perspective.

The attorneys are often called ad-litem attorneys. These lawyers will be charged with conducting inspections of your home, interviewing your child (if age appropriate) and generally performing detective work to determine what is in the best interests of your child, as opposed to learning that from the cases that you and your opposing party are presenting, The ad litem attorney will take the information that he or she has gained and provide a report to the judge in which he or she makes recommendations on how a judge should rule regarding custody, visitation, and subjects such as these.

What happens if your opposing party is not represented by an attorney?

Most people that are involved with family law cases are represented by an attorney. There are numerous reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney to represent you in a case like this but I’ll tell you one very good reason for hiring an attorney before you become involved in a legal matter is because you don’t know the extent to which the law can both help and hurt you. Your case can hinge on how you approach a particular issue that may seem unimportant or merely tedious to the untrained eye. If you have an attorney and your spouse does not, this places you in an advantageous position- other facts of the case notwithstanding.

From the perspective of a judge, they prefer that the parties in front of them have attorneys. Attorneys are able to guide you better and can speak on your behalf in deciding administrative matters. The case generally runs more smoothly when there are two attorneys involved rather than no attorneys or only one. Your attorney can also modify your behavior, in a good way, rather than allowing you to let your emotions get the better of you in court.

It is possible for your opposing party to have an attorney appointed to represent him if he qualifies as being indigent. This simply means that he must be able to show that he lacks the resources necessary to pay for his own attorney. Especially in cases like termination of parental rights– where emotions will be running high and the possibility of violence can be escalated- the appointment of an attorney is not only necessary but highly beneficial in most circumstances.

Ensuring a fair trial in the event that you are not represented by an attorney

In Texas family law cases a judge is not obligated to appoint an attorney to represent you if you ask for one unless you are indigent and/or facing the possibility of having your parental rights terminated. In other circumstances, if you cannot afford an attorney, do not want an attorney and are not in a position to have one appointed for you by a court, then you need to pay attention to this section of today’s blog post.

For starters, the judge in your case must take steps towards ensuring that you are able to have a fair day in court despite your not being represented by an attorney. Your hearing or trial will look different than if you had been represented. The judge will likely take more time to explain the proceedings in order to best ensure that you understand what is happening.

A judge will obviously prefer that you have an attorney due to the fact that in explaining the issues in a more comprehensive manner the trial or hearing will take that much longer as far as time is concerned. For instance, in most circumstances, an attorney will have a very good idea about exactly what evidence he or she would be well served to produce in order to substantiate an allegation or prove a point. However, if you are representing yourself then you would not be able to have that knowledge and it is likely that the judge would have to explain (in general terms) the sort of evidence that you would want to produce in that specific situation.

The bottom line is that while your judge may not be entirely happy that you don’t have an attorney that doesn’t mean that she won’t be courteous and professional. Your judge will not treat you any differently than the attorney who is representing your opposing party. However, expect that the judge will keep control of the proceedings and will require that any testimony that you give, or your opposing party gives will be addressed directly to the judge.

It can happen that you want to speak directly to your spouse about a particularly contentious issue. This is where hostility can brew up very easily. In order to have the proceedings continue fairly, the judge will not allow you to overstep your bounds. While the judge will do their best to allow you to present your case in full, it sometimes happens that parties representing themselves will not know when “enough is enough” and testimony or other evidence is becoming repetitive or what we call “cumulative” in the legal world. The judge will step in and stop you from testifying if this is occurring.

Your child’s idea of how long your case is going on for has an impact on how a judge administers the case

Time is relative. You may think that a month is a long time, while I believe it is rather short. Your neighbor may have a different idea about that than mine, and on and on. We can see that time, and what is and what is not a “long” time, can mean different things to different people.

If you believe that your case is taking a long time to conclude imagine how your child feels. He has been exposed to months and months of the effects of your case even if he has never had to be in a courtroom. What’s more, even if your case has only been ongoing for three months it can seem like it has been taking much longer if you are a child. Their development is being affected by the acrimony and hostility in the home that you are bringing home with you whether or not you are aware of it. Your judge will likely believe that it is in your child’s best interests that your case move along towards a conclusion at as rapid a pace as is possible.

Some judges will take this responsibility more seriously than others will but the overall sentiment among judges is that they want their dockets clear of cases as quickly as is reasonable. To help the judge in this effort you and your attorney need to be prepared to conduct business in whatever sort of court appearance that you have ongoing. It is understandable and sometimes unavoidable to have continuances and delays in a family law case. However, the judge will not allow multiple continuances except for very good reasons.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with a Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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