If you are involved in contested child custody or visitation case in Virginia, chances are there will be a guardian ad litem appointed to represent your child. Therefore, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the role of the guardian.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Guardians are Virginia attorneys who are appointed by the Court in certain cases to represent minors or other incapacitated individuals. In Virginia, guardians are frequently appointed to represent children who are the subject of a custody or visitation dispute. When appointed, a guardian’s job is to represent their client—the child—and to advocate for their client’s best interests. Thorough guardians conduct a time-consuming investigation prior to trial, which would normally include interviewing the parents, extended family-members, relevant third parties (i.e. counselors, psychologists, daycare providers, teachers) and other witnesses. It should also include “home visits” (observations of the homes of the parents or third-parties who are competing for custody/visitation) and reviewing important records (medical records, report cards, disciplinary records, etc.).
A guardian ad litem will also participate in the trial. They may introduce evidence, question witnesses, and make a recommendation to the Judge as to what custody and visitation arrangement they believe is in the child’s best interest.
Will a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed in my case?
The short answer: Maybe.
The long answer: It depends on the circumstances and on the city/county where your case is pending. In our experience, some Judges tend to appoint a guardian ad litem in every contested case, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of whether both parents have hired their own attorneys. Other Judges will require at least one of the parties to specifically request a guardian, and even then may be hesitant to appoint one without seeing a good reason for doing so. (Note: Virginia Code Section 16.1-266 (F) limits the Court’s ability to appoint guardians in cases where both parents have retained a lawyer.)
Should I request a Guardian Ad Litem in my case?
Good question. It is a good question because a guardian can have a very influential role in your child custody or visitation case. Judges tend to give a guardian’s opinion a great amount of weight. This is likely due to their ability to meet the parties outside of Court, to see their home environment, and, most importantly, to talk to the children in a comfortable environment.
For these reasons, among others, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney about whether or not you want a guardian appointed to represent your child.
What should I do if a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed in my case?
It is important to develop a good relationship with a guardian, given the fact that they serve an important and influential role in the case. So, be responsive; return their calls, be cooperative and polite. Remember that they are representing your child, not the other parent. It is also wise to strongly consider hiring an experienced family law attorney if you have not already done so. An attorney can help guide you through the litigation process, which includes interacting with the guardian and assisting them with their investigation.
If you have any questions about the guardian ad litem’s role in your case, contact an experienced Virginia family law attorney at BoykoNapier. Our attorneys handle cases throughout Central Virginia, including Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and the surrounding localities. Call BoykoNapier today at (804) 658-3418, or contact us via email.