Virginia Guardian Ad Litem Attorney
If you are a parent or guardian of a child or an incapacitated adult and you and that child/incapacitated person are involved in the court system for any reason, you may encounter the term “guardian ad litem.” In fact, depending upon the circumstances of your case, a guardian ad litem may even be appointed by the court.
At the law offices of Farmer Legal, PLLC, we can help you to understand what a guardian ad litem is, when a guardian ad litem is used, and what the benefits of a guardian ad litem are. Our experienced Virginia family law lawyer, Josh Farmer, is here to answer any legal questions that you may have and guide you through your civil or juvenile law matter.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Guardian ad litem, often referred to simply as GAL, translates to “guardian for the suit.” In Virginia, a GAL is responsible for providing representation for, and protecting the best interests of, a person (typically a child) involved in a legal matter before the court. Guardian ad litems are court-appointed, and must be attorneys.
A GAL has an ethical and legal duty to provide recommendations to the court that are in the best interest of the person being represented. In order to make these recommendations, the GAL may conduct interviews with parties involved in the case, participate in mediated sessions, observe the relationship between the person being represented and other parties, and attend and participate in court sessions and hearings. GALs will also file motions and petitions, monitor the representee’s wellbeing, and advise the representee of who the GAL is and what they are there to do. Guardian ad litems and their clients share attorney-client privileges.
Types of Guardian Ad Litems
There are two types of guardian ad litems in Virginia:
- Guardian ad litems for children. When people talk about guardian ad litems, they are typically referring to guardian ad litems for children. GALs for children represent the child in court proceedings, and are often used in family court cases involving child custody issues, child abuse, termination of parental rights, adoption, visitation cases, or other cases where the primary issue concerns a minor.
- Guardian ad litems for incapacitated adults. There are also guardian ad litems for incapacitated adult persons. A GAL may be used in a court case involving a question of guardianship involving an incapacitated adult, and in situations where an incapacitated person is being financially exploited or is at imminent risk of harm.
Requirements for Becoming a Guardian Ad Litem in Virginia
Not just anyone can serve as a guardian ad litem. In fact, in addition to being a lawyer, the state of Virginia sets forth the following requirements for becoming a guardian ad litem:
- Must be an active member of the Virginia State Bar and be in good standing;
- Must complete a required seven-hour course (the course is six hours for GALs for incapacitated persons);
- Must demonstrate familiarity and competence in the relevant legal matter (for GALs for children, an attorney must have participated in at least four court cases involving children or associate with a GAL in two cases in the juvenile court system);
- Must serve as the counsel for the petitioner in at least two cases involving an incapacitated person for GALs for incapacitated persons; and
- For GALs for children, must submit a certificate of nomination in order to demonstrate competence and proficiency in the representation of children.
Important Things to Know About Guardian Ad Litems in Virginia Cases
There are a number of important things to know about guardian ad litems in Virginia cases, including:
- If you are a parent or a guardian, the guardian ad litem does not represent you; they represent your child, or the incapacitated adult of whom you have, or are seeking, guardianship.
- GALs are not appointed in all cases. If you are getting divorced and seeking custody of your child, a GAL may not be involved in your case. In fact, GALs are only required by law when the termination of parental rights are being sought; there is a question or issue of child abuse or neglect; a child is seeking emancipation from their parents; the proceedings involve committing a child to a psychiatric facility; parents no longer wish to care for their child; or the case involves an entrustment agreement. In other cases, the use of a GAL is up to the discretion of the court.
- A GAL must act in the best interests of the person they are representing. This may mean that if you are a parent and a GAL is representing your child, the GAL may make a recommendation to the court that does notsupport your desires.
- Guardian ad litems are court appointed, which means that you do not have to pay for the services of a guardian ad litem out of pocket if one participates in your case.
- You should seek separate legal counsel. Again, a GAL does not represent you; they represent your child or the incapacitated adult. It is generally recommended that you have your own legal counsel as well.
When You Need to Talk to a Virginia Guardian Ad Litem Attorney
If you have a legal issue that falls within the parameters of the juvenile or civil/family court system, you should consult with an experienced Virginia family law attorney. This is especially true when the matter involves minor children or incapacitated persons who are unable to represent themselves in legal proceedings.
You want the best thing for your child or the person for whom you serve as a guardian; so does a guardian ad litem. Working with an attorney can help to determine what the best remedy to your case is, and will represent your best interests while the guardian ad litem represents the best interests of the child/incapacitated person.
At the offices of Farmer Legal, PLLC, Attorney Josh Farmer is ready to serve you. To schedule a consultation with our experienced Virginia family law lawyer today, call our law offices directly at (804) 325-1441 or contact us by utilizing our website contact form. We can help you to navigate your legal matter competently, work with the GAL involved in your case, and guide you in understanding your options.