Amicus Attorney versus Attorney Ad Litem – What’s the Difference?

Sometimes in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (e.g. a custody dispute associated with a divorce or between unmarried parents), the court might appoint an Amicus Attorney or Attorney Ad Litem (and, on rare occasion, both).   The different focus of their respective roles is not well understood.

The focus of an Amicus Attorney is to provide legal services to the Court.  The Amicus Attorney helps the court determine and protect the child’s best interests.  The Amicus Attorney’s focus is not on providing legal services to the child.  The child (or the child’s parent) is not the Amicus Attorney’s client. 

The focus of an Attorney Ad Litem is to provide legal services to a person, such as a parent or the child.  Whether the client is the parent or the child, the Attorney Ad Litem owes the client complete loyalty, confidentiality in all communications and diligent and competent representation.

When the court appoints an Amicus Attorney or Attorney Ad Litem, the attorneys for the Petitioner and Respondent will work with these court-appointed attorneys while still advocating for their respective client’s objectives.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.