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10 July 2023

What is An Amicus Attorney and What Do They Do in Texas Custody Cases?

I. Introduction

In Texas custody cases, the well-being of the child is of the utmost importance. To ensure fair and informed decisions, the court may appoint an amicus attorney to represent the child's best interests. Amicus attorneys play a vital role in these cases, advocating for the child and providing valuable insights to the court.


Importance of Amicus Attorneys in Texas Child Custody Cases

Amicus attorneys serve as advocates for children in custody cases. Their role is to:

  • Investigate: Amicus attorneys thoroughly investigate the child's circumstances, including home environments, relationships, and overall well-being. They may interview family members, teachers, or other relevant parties and review relevant documents.
  • Represent: Amicus attorneys represent the child's best interests throughout the legal proceedings. They ensure that the child's voice is heard and taken into consideration when determining custody arrangements.
  • Doesn't Make Recommendations: The amicus is not an expert or fact witness. They participate in the litigation as an attorney for a party would, which means they can litigate and ask questions, but they don't testify. An amicus can inform the court, or a jury, what is in the child's best interest based on what the evidence shows (and based on their investigations and understanding of the child's needs), but they cannot testify about their own recommendation. Amicus attorneys must, instead, use their questioning of witnesses and summary of evidence in opening statements or closing argument to indicate what would be in the child's best interest regarding custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and other relevant matters.


Definition of an Amicus Attorney

An amicus attorney is a legal professional appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in a custody case. The term "amicus" comes from Latin, meaning "friend of the court." The amicus attorney is a lawyer who participates in the case as a lawyer for a party might, but with statutory requirements defining the scope of their obligations to meet with the child and parents, observe the child in both homes, and talk to other witnesses and review evidence related to the child's welfare.


sad mother holding daughter speaking to attorney


II. Role of an Amicus Attorney

In Texas custody cases, an amicus attorney plays a crucial role in representing the best interests of the child. They are appointed by the court to and act as an advocate for the child, ensuring their needs are met and their voice is heard. Amicus attorneys are neutral parties who act independently as the "friend of the court" to ensure that the child's well-being is the primary focus and that sufficient evidence related to the child's best interest is provided to the finder of fact (judge or jury) to make a fully informed decision.

Conducting Interviews and Gathering Information

One of the primary responsibilities of an amicus attorney is to gather information about the child's situation. This is done through interviews with the child, parents, and other relevant individuals involved in the case. The attorney may also review documents and records related to the child's well-being.

During these interviews and information-gathering processes, the amicus attorney will assess various factors that could impact the child's best interests, such as:

  • The child's relationship with each parent

  • The child's living arrangements and environment

  • The child's emotional, physical, and educational needs

  • Any history of abuse or neglect

  • The child's preferences, if they are of sufficient age and maturity


Advocating for the Best Interests of the Child

Once the amicus attorney has gathered the necessary information, they will advocate for the child's best interests in court. This includes presenting evidence and advocating for custody arrangements that serve the child's well-being by providing the decision maker with evidence needed to make a fully informed child custody decision.


The amicus attorney is not aligned with either parent but instead represents the child's interests independently. They do not make recommendations regarding custody, visitation schedules, or other matters to ensure the child's safety, stability, and overall welfare. They are not a fact witness where they may testify on their opinion, nor are the qualified as a child custody evaluator to make a recommendation as an expert witness how those issues should be decided. They are not an ad litem, they do not represent the child as the child's lawyer. Since they have no person as a client, and their statutory duty is to participate as an attorney to help the court determine the child's best interest, their role is to help the court (or jury) make important decisions about primary residence, other conservatorship rights, and possession and access, by presenting evidence needed to make those decisions.


As an attorney in the process, the amicus may question witnesses and introduce evidence that suggests what their opinion might be. They might even argue in a closing argument what the evidence has shown is in the child's best interest, but they cannot make a personal recommendation.

For more information on the role of an amicus attorney in Texas custody cases, you can visit the Texas Family Code Chapter 107.


little boy hugging father around waist


III. Eligibility and Appointment Process

Appointment Process by the Court

The court has the authority to appoint an amicus attorney to represent the best interests of the child. Here is an overview of the appointment process:

  • Application: The court typically has a list of qualified amicus attorneys who are eligible for appointment. The parties involved in the custody case, or the court itself, can submit an application to request the appointment of an amicus attorney.
  • Vetting process: The court will review the applications and select an amicus attorney based on their qualifications and experience. The court will assess the attorney's understanding of child development, experience in family law, and ability to communicate effectively with both parents and the child.
  • Appointment order: Once selected, the court will issue an appointment order specifying the responsibilities and limitations of the amicus attorney. The order will outline the scope of the attorney's role and may include deadlines and reporting requirements.


Qualifications for an Amicus Attorney

To be eligible to serve as an amicus attorney in Texas custody cases, attorneys must meet certain qualifications:

  • Licensing: Attorneys must be licensed to practice law in the state of Texas.
  • Experience: Amicus attorneys should have experience with family law cases, particularly those involving child custody issues.
  • Training: Attorneys may be required to complete additional training in child advocacy or related areas.
  • Impartiality: It is crucial for amicus attorneys to remain neutral and unbiased throughout the case, advocating solely for the best interests of the child. Taking sides may cause communication issues between the disfavored party and the attorney.
  • Communication skills: Amicus attorneys must be effective communicators, capable of effectively interacting with all parties involved, including the child.
  • Understanding of child development: Knowledge of child development and an understanding of the psychological and emotional needs of children are essential for amicus attorneys.


It is important to remember that the specific requirements for becoming an amicus attorney may vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific court rules.

For more information on amicus attorneys and their role in Texas custody cases, review Texas Family Code Chapter 107.


mother doing homework with daughter in kitchen


IV. Duties and Responsibilities

An amicus attorney is not a guardian ad litem or attorney at litem. An attorney ad litem for a child actually has that child as a client, and has to advocate the child's desires (unless the attorney determines that would be harmful and uses "substituted judgment"). A guardian ad litem for a child doesn't participate as an attorney and cannot question witnesses, object to evidence, or otherwise act as counsel. What they may do is review and obtain evidence, prepare a report on what they believe is in the child's best interest and the reasons behind that opinion. Again, an amicus only helps investigate and develop evidence about the child's best interest, they have no person as a client and do not testify. Some of the key duties and responsibilities of an amicus attorney include:


Collaborating with Other Professionals Involved in the Case

  • The amicus attorney works closely with other professionals, such as social workers, psychologists, and counselors, to gather information about the child's well-being and living situation.

Attending Court Hearings and Representing the Child's Interests

  • The amicus attorney attends court hearings on behalf of the child and presents arguments and recommendations to the court based on their assessment of the child's best interests.

Analyzing Evidence and Documentation

  • The amicus attorney thoroughly examines evidence and documentation provided by both parties involved in the custody case, including medical records, school reports, and testimonies from relevant individuals.

Conducting Thorough Investigations

  • The amicus attorney conducts comprehensive investigations to gather additional information about the child's home environment, living conditions, relationships with family members, and any potential risks or concerns.


By fulfilling these duties and responsibilities, an amicus attorney ensures the child's best interests are considered during the custody proceedings. Their goal is to provide the court with objective and unbiased recommendations that prioritize the child's well-being and future.


father and son holding and hugging


V. Benefits of Hiring an Amicus Attorney

When it comes to Texas custody cases, hiring an amicus attorney can offer several benefits. Here are some advantages of having an amicus attorney involved in your case:


1. Helping the Court Make Informed Decisions

An amicus attorney's primary role is to assist the court in understanding the unique circumstances and dynamics of the case. They thoroughly investigate the facts, gather information from all parties involved, and present their findings to the court. This helps the judge make well-informed decisions regarding custody arrangements.

2. Providing a Neutral Perspective

Amicus attorneys are appointed by the court and are considered neutral parties. They do not advocate for either parent but rather act in the best interests of the child. Their objective viewpoint can help balance the arguments presented by the parents and ensure a fair and unbiased assessment of the case.

3. Ensuring the Child's Perspective is Heard

In custody cases, the child's perspective is crucial but often overshadowed by the parents' concerns. The amicus attorney can serve as the voice of the child, representing their interests and needs. They may interview the child, observe their interactions with both parents, and make recommendations that align with the child's well-being.


By hiring an amicus attorney, parents can benefit from their expertise and insights, ultimately improving the chances of reaching a custody arrangement that prioritizes the child's best interests. If the evidence is largely he said/she said, then an amicus attorney can help the court (or jury) cut through the posturing of one or both parties to hear what is actually happening.


gavel hitting piggy bank


VI. Costs of an Amicus Attorney

While amicus attorneys can play a crucial role in Texas custody cases, they increase the cost of the family law dispute. The amicus is statutorily entitled to reasonable compensation for the work he or she performs. The court may allocate those expenses as it finds fair between the parties, meaning the court may order one party to pay more of the cost if that person has the financial means to cover that cost, is the party requesting the appointment, or appears to be the bad actor in the dispute and reason why the appointment is being made. Court appearances, motion practice, need to make surprise visits, all add to the financial cost of their appointment.


Despite these challenges, the appointment of an amicus attorney can help provide valuable insights and recommendations to the court, ensuring that the best interests of the child are prioritized. It is important to weigh the benefits against the potential drawbacks and consult with legal professionals to determine if an amicus attorney is the right approach for your specific custody case.


VIII. Conclusion

Amicus attorneys play a crucial role in Texas custody cases, ensuring the best interests of children are considered. They provide expert guidance, investigations, and recommendations to the court, helping to protect the rights and well-being of children involved in custody disputes.


How They Assist the Court in Determining the Best Interests of Children

Amicus attorneys have the following responsibilities in Texas custody cases:

  • Representing the best interests of the child: Amicus attorneys advocate for what they believe is in the child's best interests, which may differ from the preferences of one or both parents.

  • Investigating the case: They gather relevant information, conduct interviews, and assess the child's situation to gain a comprehensive understanding of their needs and circumstances.

  • Presenting evidence: Amicus attorneys present evidence to the court to help inform the judge's decision-making.

  • Monitoring the case: They keep track of the child's well-being throughout the legal process, ensuring their rights and needs are being addressed and advocating for any necessary adjustments or interventions.


The role of amicus attorneys is essential in Texas custody cases, as they bring expertise, objectivity, and a focus on the child's best interests to the legal process. Their involvement helps to ensure that custody decisions are made with the child's well-being as the top priority.


Contact Longino Law

At Longino Law, our attorneys have a deep understanding of the complexities surrounding custody disputes and the importance of protecting the well-being of children. With our expertise in family law and our commitment to serving as strong advocates for children, we are well-equipped to navigate the intricacies of Texas custody cases. Tristan Longino, a former Harris County family court judge, has not only litigated cases that have an amicus attorney involved, he knows when and how they are beneficial to the court and how to make the best use of their involvement in a case. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help you in your divorce or child custody dispute.

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