If you are in the middle of an adoption—whether it is a stepparent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, or new parent adoption—you know that your child must have a representative in court to ensure the child’s best interest standard is being met. Many people do not realize that there are a few options for the courts in determining what option is best for your particular case. In adoptions, the two most primary appointments are either amicus attorney or attorney ad litem. But, which would be best for you?
Amicus attorneys are appointed in termination/adoption suits not to specifically represent the child but rather to assist the court in protecting a child’s best interest. So, unlike the attorney ad litem an amicus attorney does not have an attorney-client relationship with the child. In fact, an amicus attorney can even relay what would otherwise be privileged communication from the child to the court if it is necessary to assist in the court’s decision. Amicus attorneys can be appointed for a number of reasons; but typically, they are appointed when the child is young and cannot express their desires to the court unlike a child who is 12 or older. Amicus attorneys do meet with the child and determine what their objectives are in the case; however, the amicus attorney does not have to act in favor of those objectives and must always advocate for the child’s best interest.
Attorney Ad Litem
In contract of an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the best interest of the child and has a direct relationship with the child. Therefore, the attorney-client relationship is created with the child and any communication with the child must remain confidential at all times. However, like the amicus attorney an attorney ad litem must at all times represent the best interest of the child. This individual does make representations to the court as to what is in the child’s best interest but it is also in line with what the child wants.
Regardless of which appointment is made for your termination/adoption suit, the Family Code makes it very clear that at least one of them must be appointed (and you cannot appoint both). So, once your case begins you will petition the court to appoint the appropriate representative for the child in the case and the court will make the appointment and choose an attorney from the community to do so. That attorney will then, upon notice of the appointment, proceed forward to fulfill their duties and obligations in the case.
For any additional information regarding amicus attorney vs. attorney ad litem or adoptions in general, schedule a consultation with Guest & Gray today.