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Sec. 107.004: Additional Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Child

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this chapter, the attorney ad litem appointed for a child shall, in a developmentally appropriate manner:

(1) advise the child;

(2) represent the child's expressed objectives of representation and follow the child's expressed objectives of representation during the course of litigation if the attorney ad litem determines that the child is competent to understand the nature of an attorney-client relationship and has formed that relationship with the attorney ad litem; and

(3) as appropriate, considering the nature of the appointment, become familiar with the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent children in abuse and neglect cases, the suggested amendments to those standards adopted by the National Association of Counsel for Children, and the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent children in custody cases.

(b) An attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Subtitle E shall complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to representing children in child protection cases as described by Subsection (c) as soon as practicable after the attorney ad litem is appointed. An attorney ad litem is not required to comply with this subsection if the court finds that the attorney ad litem has experience equivalent to the required education.

(b-1) An attorney who is on the list maintained by the court as being qualified for appointment as an attorney ad litem for a child in a child protection case must:

(1) complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to the representation of a child in a proceeding under Subtitle E each year before the anniversary date of the attorney's listing; and

(2) provide proof that the attorney has completed a training program regarding trauma-informed care and the effect of trauma on children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(b-2) The training described by Subsection (b-1)(2) may satisfy the training requirement under Subsection (b-1)(1) in a year in which an attorney completes the training.

(b-3) An attorney described by Subsection (b-1) shall complete the training required by Subsection (b-1)(2) as soon as practicable after the attorney is placed on the list described by Subsection (b-1).

(b-4) The training required by Subsection (b-1)(2) must be designed to educate an attorney regarding the attorney's duty under Subsection (d-3) and include information regarding:

(1) the symptoms of trauma and the impact that trauma has on a child, including how trauma may affect a child's development, emotions, memories, behavior, and decision-making;

(2) attachment and how a lack of attachment may affect a child;

(3) the role that trauma-informed care and services can have in a child's ability to build connections, feel safe, and regulate the child's emotions to help the child build resiliency and overcome the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences;

(4) the importance of screening children for trauma and the risk of mislabeling and inappropriate treatment of children without proper screening, including the risks and benefits associated with the use of psychotropic medication;

(5) the potential for re-traumatization of children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services; and

(6) the availability of:

(A) research-supported, trauma-informed, non-pharmacological interventions; and

(B) trauma-informed advocacy to increase a child's access, while the child is in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services, to:

(i) trauma-informed care; and

(ii) trauma-informed mental and behavioral health services.

(c) The continuing legal education required by Subsections (b) and (b-1) must:

(1) be low-cost and available to persons throughout this state, including on the Internet provided through the State Bar of Texas; and

(2) focus on the duties of an attorney ad litem in, and the procedures of and best practices for, representing a child in a proceeding under Subtitle E.

(d) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262, 263, or 264 shall:

(1) meet before each court hearing with:

(A) the child, if the child is at least four years of age; or

(B) the individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, including the child's parent, conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian, if the child is younger than four years of age; and

(2) report to the court whether the attorney ad litem:

(A) complied with Subdivision (1); or

(B) requests that the court find good cause for noncompliance because compliance was not feasible or in the best interest of the child under Subsection (e).

(d-1) A meeting required by Subsection (d) must take place:

(1) a sufficient time before the hearing to allow the attorney ad litem to prepare for the hearing in accordance with the child's expressed objectives of representation; and

(2) in a private setting that allows for confidential communications between the attorney ad litem and the child or individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, as applicable.

(d-2) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services or a child who is the subject of a proceeding under Chapter 264 shall, before each scheduled hearing under Chapter 263 or 264, determine whether the child's educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed.

(d-3) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services or a child who is the subject of a proceeding under Chapter 264 shall periodically continue to review the child's safety and well-being, including any effects of trauma to the child, and take appropriate action, including requesting a review hearing when necessary to address an issue of concern.

(e) An attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262, 263, or 264 is not required to comply with Subsection (d) before a hearing if the court finds at that hearing that the attorney ad litem has shown good cause why the attorney ad litem's compliance with that subsection is not feasible or in the best interest of the child. Additionally, a court may, on a showing of good cause, authorize an attorney ad litem to comply with Subsection (d) by conferring with the child or other individual, as appropriate, by telephone or video conference.

Comments

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 262, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 172 (H.B. 307), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2005.

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 268 (S.B. 6), Sec. 1.04(a), eff. September 1, 2005.

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 310 (H.B. 1972), Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 2007.

Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 572 (H.B. 3311), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2011.

Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 573 (H.B. 3314), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2011.

Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 688 (H.B. 2619), Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2013.

Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 810 (S.B. 1759), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2013.

Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 317 (H.B. 7), Sec. 8, eff. September 1, 2017.

Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 8 (H.B. 567), Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2021.

Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 430 (S.B. 904), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2021.

Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 934 (H.B. 3774), Sec. 4.05, eff. September 1, 2021.