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Court-ordered Processes that Aid in Determining Conservatorship

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  • Court-ordered Processes that Aid in Determining Conservatorship

Texas Family Code Chapter 153 defines the various factors that are taken into account by a family court before deciding on conservatorship and this chapter also mentions the various rights & duties that come with conservatorship. However, in some cases, a court may not be able to determine the type and manner of conservatorship. In such situations, a family court has the right to order certain processes (appointments) that could help in reaching the final decision. It’s important that you discuss with your child custody lawyer about the impact of these processes on your case.

Texas Family Code Chapter 107 provides the definitions as well as powers & duties of these appointments and studies. These processes are briefly discussed below.

Amicus Attorney

An amicus attorney is an attorney appointed by the court whose primary role is to provide legal services that are required to help the court with the conservatorship issue. These legal services thus provided are to help the court in safeguarding the child’s best interest and not essentially to provide the legal services to the child (Texas Family Code § 107.001 (1)). An amicus attorney has the right to interview the child, other parties mentioned in the suit, and other relevant people who are aware of the child’s history; investigate & review the facts and copies of relevant records pertaining to the child; be a part of the litigation process, etc. (Texas Family Code § 107.003 (1)).

Attorney Ad Litem

Attorney ad litem, in the case of conservatorship, refers to an attorney who is appointed by the court to provide legal services to the child. Hence, attorney ad litem enters into an attorney-client relationship with the child and must provide undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. He/she is responsible to represent the expressed objectives of the child in the court as well as should advise the child, if needed. In addition to the rights provided to an amicus attorney (mentioned above), there are many other rights & duties given to an attorney ad litem as described in the Texas Family Code Chapter 107.

Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian ad litem could be a volunteer advocate (as described in Texas Family Code § 107.031); a professional, who is not an attorney but has a relevant professional license and has taken appropriate training which could help in determining conservatorship taking into account the best interest of the child; an adult with the required competence, training and skills to help the court; or an attorney ad litem (Texas Family Code § 107.001 (5)).

Social Studies

In simple terms, social study can be described as an evaluative process ordered by the court to gather relevant information regarding the living conditions and relationship shared between the parents as well as with the child (Texas Family Code § 107.0501). At the end of the evaluative process, the social worker submits certain recommendations (based on findings) to the court regarding the primary residence of the child, type of conservatorship to be ordered (sole or joint), and visitation schedule suitable & convenient to both parents, etc.

Apart from the above mentioned processes, there are many other processes and restrictions that are put by the court so as to safeguard the best interest of the child. For example, drug testing could be ordered by the court if allegations are made regarding the substance abuse by one of the parents. Also, the court has the right to prohibit the overnight stay of an unrelated person at a parent’s house when he/she has the possession of the child. If the court has ordered joint managing conservatorship, the court puts a geographic restriction w.r.t. the primary residence of the child and if the custodial parent wants to change the primary residence outside this area, then he/she must prove to the court why this shift is in the best interest of the child. Hence, consult with an experienced child custody lawyer about these various processes and restrictions so that you are well-informed and prepared to handle them.