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The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Virginia

Divorce is seen, more or less, as an adult matter. And, for the most part, it is. However, any child of divorce can tell you that divorce, child custody, and other legal issues involving minor children are best settled when those children have a legal advocate on their side.

Therefore, judges often appoint what’s called a guardian ad litem for cases that involve the welfare of children. The main role of a guardian ad litem in Virginia is to investigate and present the best interests of the child, which is a specific legal standard applied to many family law cases. Importantly, the best interests of the child may be quite different from the wishes of the mother and father in divorce or custody proceedings.

How Do Guardians Ad Litem Do the Job?

Virginia state courts have legal standards in place to direct the behavior and practices of a guardian ad litem. Generally, a Virginia guardian ad litem shall fulfill the following 11 action items: 

  • Meet face-to-face with children;
  • Perform an “independent investigation” in order to ascertain the relevant facts of the case;
  • Advise children on the role of the guardian ad litem, the child’s rights, and a general rundown of the court proceedings and possible impacts;
  • Participate in mediations, negotiations, and other pre-trial conferences;
  • Make sure children are present at events as appropriate or mandated;
  • Appear in court as appropriate to “vigorously” advocate for the children’s best interests;
  • Help children testify on the behalf of their own interests;
  • Make recommendations for the court and provide information based on the guardian ad litem’s investigations and interviews;
  • Professionally coordinate and communicate with all parties involved in the case (without sacrificing impartiality);
  • File appropriate court actions (including motions, appeals, pleadings, and briefs) on behalf of children and represent them at all appeals; and
  • Advise children, after the court makes a decision, of the decision’s effects and consequences.

Not every attorney—or every family law attorney, even—can serve as a guardian ad litem in Virginia. Qualified guardians ad litem must regularly complete a certain amount of continuing legal education. The team at Norton Pelt has experience both acting as guardians ad litem and working cases involving guardians ad litem.

Our Stafford firm is well equipped to help you navigate cases where a guardian ad Litem has been appointed and to bring a calming—yet assertive—legal presence in your family law matter. These legal issues can have a profound effect on the rest of your and your children’s lives. Call us at (540) 440-7007 today to schedule your initial consultation.

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