Depending on the circumstances of your divorce or family law case, you may hear the Latin terms “amicus” and “ad litem” referenced by the attorneys or the judge in your case. We’re here to help clarify the purpose of an amicus attorney and an ad litem and explain when it would be beneficial to have either one appointed to your case.
The word “amicus” means “friend of the court.” When an amicus attorney is appointed in your case, it is important to know that the amicus does not represent any of the parties or children involved in the case. Rather, the purpose of an amicus is to gather information and help the court determine what is in the best interest of the child. The amicus will not only interview the parties and the children involved but will likely gather information from any other individuals that have valuable or relevant information. This can include teachers, counselors, doctors or other family members that are not parties to the case. This process allows the amicus to gather a significant amount of information, which can include evidence that may not be admissible in a hearing. Requesting that an amicus be appointed in your case is beneficial when the case is very contentious or involves a question of whether a party may be causing significant impairment or harm to a child.
“Ad litem” means “to represent in litigation.” There are two types of ad litems we see in family law cases: an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem. Unlike an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of a party. In Texas, a Court may appoint an attorney ad litem when a party is not capable of representing himself or when a party has been served by publication. An attorney ad litem is sometimes appointed to represent the child and advocate for what the child wants. In cases involving CPS, the Court will always appoint an attorney ad litem in order to ensure that the child’s interests are protected. A guardian ad litem may or may not be an attorney and is appointed to represent the best interests of a child. Occasionally, a court will appoint an attorney in the dual role if attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem for a child. In the event there is a conflict between what the child wants and what is in the child’s best interest, both need to be appointed. CASA often serves as the guardian ad litem for the child in CPS cases in certain counties.
If your custody matter is complex, an amicus attorney or an ad litem may be an important tool to protect the child’s interests. Contact the attorneys at The Draper Law Firm, P.C. We’re ready to help.
Blog post by Shmyla Alam