In our last post, we began a discussion of the “next friend” concept in Texas law. The term refers to an adult representative who looks out for a minor’s legal interests in a variety of ways. A next friend is a requirement for minor parents seeking child support; often a necessity for young custodial parents with little or no income who are nonetheless hit with everyday expenses, medical expenses and other costs of raising a child.
Typically, the individual who serves as a minor parent’s next friend will be the minor’s parent. A legal guardian can also be a next friend. If no adult or legal guardian is available or willing to serve, the minor parent has the option to invite any adult whom they trust and who is willing to take on the appointment.
If necessary, a judge can make a next friend appointment him or herself. The person appointed will be either a guardian ad litem or an attorney ad litem. In fact, it’s possible that a judge may make such an appointment even if a minor brings a chosen next friend. All appointments are subject to a judge’s approval.
One other issue we see in cases of minor parents is paternal grandparents providing support, perhaps food or clothing or even monthly payments to the mother. It’s important to note that paternity must still be established for these children. They have legal rights regarding their fathers, and benefits associated with this relationship. These rights and benefits hinge upon legally established paternity.
A minor parent seeking child support is likely to have many questions, concerns, or fears about the Texas legal system. He or she may even worry that the law will try to take away the child or make things more difficult than they already are. A legal professional may be able to play an important role in protecting the rights of a minor (and/or a next friend) and help seek the support to which the young family is entitled.
Source: The Attorney General of Texas, “CS Parents Frequently Asked Questions: Minor Parents,” accessed on July 25, 2015