F. Mandatory Appointment of Attorney for Parent

When DFPS files a petition requesting termination or seeking conservatorship of a child, the court must appoint an attorney for the following persons:

In a suit described by Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(a), if a parent is not represented by an attorney at the parent’s first appearance in court, the court shall inform the parent of:

The court may appoint one attorney for both parents if they are both entitled and their interests are not in conflict and there is no history or pattern of past or present family violence by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child of the parties. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(b).

The court shall require a parent who claims indigence under Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(a) to file an affidavit of indigence pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 145(b) before the court may conduct a hearing to determine the parent’s indigence under Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(d).

The court may consider additional evidence at that hearing, including evidence relating to the parent’s income, source of income, assets, property ownership, benefits paid in accordance with a federal, state, or local public assistance program, outstanding obligations, and necessary expenses and the number and ages of the parent’s dependents. If the court determines the parent is indigent, the court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(d).

However, if DFPS has alleged grounds for termination of parental rights under Tex. Fam. Code § 161.003(b) based on inability to care for the child, the court must appoint an attorney when the petition is filed and without regard to opposition or indigence.

1. Temporary Appointment of Attorney ad Litem for Parents

Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141 authorizes the court to appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of a parent for a limited period beginning at the time the court issues a temporary restraining order or attachment of the parent’s child under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 262 and ending on the court’s determination of whether the parent is indigent before commencement of the full Adversary Hearing. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(a).

An attorney ad litem appointed for a parent under this section:

•   Has the powers and duties of an attorney ad litem appointed under Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0131; and

•   If applicable, shall:

◦   conduct an investigation regarding the petitioner’s due diligence in locating and serving citation on the parent; and

◦   interview any parent or other person who may have information relating to the identity or location of the parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(b).

If the attorney ad litem identifies and locates the parent, the attorney ad litem shall:

•   Inform the parent of the parent’s right to be represented by an attorney ad litem appointed by the court, if the parent is indigent and appears in opposition to the suit;

•   If the parent claims indigence and requests an attorney ad litem beyond the period of time the temporary appointment under Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141, assist the parent in making a claim of indigence for the appointment of an attorney ad litem; and

•   Assist the parent in preparing for the full Adversary Hearing under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 262, Subchapter C. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(c).

If the court determines the parent is indigent, the court may appoint the attorney ad litem to continue to represent the parent under Tex. Fam. Code § 107.013(a)(1). Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(d).

If the attorney ad litem is unable to identify or locate the parent, the attorney ad litem shall submit to the court a written summary of the attorney ad litem’s efforts to identify or locate the parent with a statement that the attorney ad litem was unable to identify or locate the parent. On receipt of the summary required by Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(e), the court shall discharge the attorney ad litem from the appointment. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(e).

If the attorney ad litem identifies or locates the parent, and the court determines that the parent is not indigent, the court shall discharge the attorney ad litem from the appointment. Tex. Fam. Code § 107.0141(f).