Court-Appointed Attorney Ad Litem
Texas Family Law defines an Attorney ad Litem as an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. A court must appoint an Attorney ad Litem to represent any child involved in a court case brought by CPS to terminate the parent-child relationship or to make CPS the conservator of the child.
What To Expect From An Attorney Ad Litem
The Attorney ad Litem’s role is to be the voice of the child in court.
- The ad litem will visit with the child before every court hearing in accordance with the Texas Family Code.
- The ad litem will discuss the child’s wishes with the child confidentially.
- The ad litem will be available to answer questions and discuss concerns with the foster parents.
- The ad litem will appear at meetings and court hearings to advocate for the child.
If you are a foster youth, your Attorney ad Litem is YOUR attorney. He or she is appointed to represent you and your interests – there are other people, like your caseworker or CASA who will try to determine what is in your “best interests,” but the role of the Attorney ad Litem should be to tell the court what you want and think about your case.
According to Texas Family Code (see §107.003), an Attorney ad Litem’s basic responsibilities are to:
- Interview the child in a reasonable time after appointed by the court.
- Interview people with significant knowledge of the child’s history and condition.
- Interview the parties of the suit (for example, the child’s parents, or anyone who may be named conservator of the child).
- Seek to find out the child’s objectives (goals) of representation – this means the lawyer must try to find out what the child wants – and consider how to best express those goals to the court.
- Investigate the facts of the case.
- Obtain and review records relating to the child.
- Participate in the litigation (hearings, trials, and everything that goes with them).
- Be trained or have experience in child advocacy.