ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICE

Opinion No. 116 (1988)


QUESTION: May a trial court judge adopt local rules to provide for an "Office of the Guardian Ad Litem" and appoint an attorney to that office who shall have the responsibility, in accordance with orders in all domestic relations cases involving child support orders, to collect and distribute all support payments, maintain necessary records for the court, and file motions for contempt where payments are not promptly made, and in return for such services receive a small monthly service charge out of court-ordered child support payments in order to finance this office?

ANSWER: The proposal is to create a self-supporting plan whereby a representative of the court will take the necessary steps to insure prompt payment of child support in accordance with court orders. The procedure would insure against a former spouse becoming delinquent for many months before this was ever brought to the attention of the court.

The proposed procedure does not result in a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. A trial judge has a legitimate interest in seeing that the best interest of a child is protected by prompt payment of support orders. The order creating the position of guardian ad litem would not result in the judge lending the prestige of his office to advance the private interest of others in violation of Canon 2B and would not constitute the practice of law in violation of Canon 5F. The judge should not engage in ex parte communications with the guardian ad litem as to the merits of the motions for contempt or other proceedings pending in the court in violation of
Canon 3A(5).

Although Tex. R. Civ. P. 173 authorizes the appointment of a guardian ad litem and the allowance of a reasonable fee for his services, this opinion does not pass upon the legality of the proposal for an office of the guardian ad litem, but only the ethical considerations.