Some factors have a lifelong impact on a child, such as their family and the place where they live. That is why the law grants them the right to express their preferences when their parents fight for their custody or when a couple wants to adopt them. However, children cannot make those important decisions alone, which is why the court may appoint them an amicus attorney to represent them in their case.
The friend of the court
Amicus curiae means the friend of the court in Latin. An amicus attorney is someone appointed by the court to protect the child’s interests. This does not mean that the amicus attorney will provide legal services to the child. Instead, they will give the court important information to consider before making their ruling on the case. An amicus attorney’s primary responsibilities are:
- Interview the child if they are over 4 years of age
- Interview the people who know about the child’s history and condition
- Act in favor of the child’s objectives and consider how their objectives will impact them
- Investigate the facts of the case
- Obtain and review all available records of the child
- Encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute
- Review and sign, or decline to sign, the proposed order affecting the child
The amicus attorney also has the right to request trials and refuse if another attorney wants to interview the child. In Texas, an attorney must be trained in child advocacy to assume the role of an amicus attorney.
Protecting the child
Besides the amicus attorney’s responsibility to investigate the case thoroughly, they also have the right to look after the child’s wellbeing after the trial. For example, they can review the medical care provided to the child. If the child is 16 or older, they may verify if they have their birth certificate, social security number and a driver’s license.
An amicus attorney’s obligation
The amicus attorney will have a lot of information about the child. Still, they cannot disclose any source of information or submit a report into evidence. They need all that information to protect the child’s best interest and ensure that the court will make the right decision regarding a child’s contested custody or adoption evaluation.