Children May Need Their Own Attorneys in Certain Family Law Issues
By law, any legal decisions involving children must first and foremost serve their best interests. Particularly in divorce cases, both parents retain their own attorneys and they generally negotiate the custody and visitation terms for their children, subject to court approval. However, there are times when children need some form of legal assistance that focuses solely on them.
When the courts recognize this need, Texas law allows them to appoint special attorneys to provide legal services that focus on the children. In fact, parents may choose to seek legal help for their children even when the courts do not require it.
Two Types of Attorneys Can Help Serve the Children's Best Interests During Family Disputes
Both parents may truly believe that the wellbeing of the children depends on their full custody. At times, the arguments presented by opposing attorneys in highly-contested family law disputes fail to clarify an outcome that would truly serve the best interests of the children.
During these times, adding another attorney to represent the children can make a difference in preserving their rights and safety. Either of the following two types of attorneys can play a vital role in the proceedings:
- Amicus attorneys are generally appointed by and serve the family courts by investigating the underlying issues in family law cases and, when applicable, expressing the wishes of the children. While their overall goal is to conduct investigations to provide the courts with information regarding the best interests of the children, they do not actually represent the children directly in court.
- Attorneys ad litem actually represent the children in divorce and other family law cases. As such, they can play an equal role to the attorneys who represent each parent in court. In some cases, the courts can appoint attorneys ad litem to protect the interests of the children during trial, but parents have the option of enlisting these services without court appointment.
Both types of attorneys play similar roles in many ways. They both obtain information from the parents and children, along with other parties who have intimate knowledge of the issues. They both may conduct home visits, and they both may attend any type of legal sessions, such as court hearings or mediation. However, they serve the interests of the children in different ways. While amicus attorneys use their research to advise the courts, attorneys ad litem represent the children in court much as divorce attorneys represent the parents.
Even Without a Court Order, a Third Attorney Can Make a Difference to Certain Family Law Cases
The long- and short-term affects to the children represent the most important issue in any family law case. When other family members cannot agree on solutions that would serve the best interests of the children, however, a third party dedicated to that goal can play an essential role in the legal proceedings.
Even when the courts do not require it, an experienced Dallas family attorney can help families understand when an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem might make a major difference to the outcome of a difficult case. Contact us to learn more about this option.