In divorces and other custody matters, a judge will decide what type of custody to award to the parents and the amount of visitation that the non-custodial parent can have if the parties cannot work out an agreement on their own. He could appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to advise him on what would be the best custody and visitation arrangement for the children. Here is what you need to know about a GAL if one is appointed in your divorce or child custody case.
What Are the Duties of a Guardian Ad Litem?
When making rulings on child custody and visitation, the judge must consider the best interests of the child. Under Virginia law, the judge can appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the children, protect their interests, and advise the court on what would be in their best interests. The judge has the right to appoint a GAL even if the parents object.
A GAL is usually an attorney who is certified to be appointed as a GAL. He cannot speak directly to the parents if they are represented by a lawyer. However, he will speak to the children whether or not the parents consent.
Once appointed, a GAL has certain duties to the children and the court under Virginia law. They include:
- Meeting with the children and interviewing them
- Participating in mediation, pre-trial hearings, and negotiations
- Conducting an independent investigation so that he understands the facts and issues in the case
- Ensuring that the children are present at any required court hearings
- Advising the children in a way that they can understand his role, the court process, their rights, and possible outcomes in the case
- Preparing the children for any testimony they will need to give
- Maintaining good communication and a professional relationship with all parties in the case
- Providing the judge with information and his recommendations
- Filing any petitions, motions, briefs, or appeals on behalf of the children
- Advising the children of the decision of the judge
Are you involved in a custody dispute in your divorce or other custody proceeding in Virginia? Our experienced family law attorneys in Norfolk are here to explain your rights and guide you through the court proceedings. Call our office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.