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Virginia Legislature Solidifies the Role and Standing of a Guardian ad Litem

The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) serves an important role in the protection of Virginia children, especially in cases marked by domestic violence. At Rinehart Bryant, we understand the importance of these appointments, which are dedicated to serving the child’s best interests above all else.

We previously defined the role of a GAL which is often beyond the understanding of Virginia families that were previously unaware of these appointments. Parents embroiled in custody battles often view these appointments with skepticism, fearing their presence may signal a less favorable result for their case. However, it’s crucial to recognize that a GAL’s role is not to favor or oppose parents, but to be an advocate solely for the child.

Recent Virginia legislative changes in Virginia further cement the pivotal role of the Guardian ad Litem, emphasizing their importance in family law proceedings.

New Language Regarding Virginia Guardian ad Litem Appointments

Significant amendments have been made to Virginia Code § 16.1-268, clarifying the parameters of a GAL’s appointment:

“The order of appointment of counsel or a guardian ad litem or both pursuant to § 16.1-266 shall be filed with and become a part of the record of such proceeding. Any attorney so appointed shall represent the child or parent, guardian, or other adult at any such hearing and at all other stages of the proceeding unless relieved or replaced in the manner provided by law. Any attorney appointed to represent the child or parent, guardian, or other adult pursuant to this section may continue to represent such child or parent, guardian, or other adult upon appeal to the circuit court unless relieved or replaced in the manner provided by law.

The language in italics brings new elements to the law and aims to preserve the role of a Guardian ad Litem and its importance in Virginia family law matters. This language underscores that a GAL can only be relieved or replaced in strict accordance with legal provisions.

Ultimately, the aim here is to prevent unnecessary disruptions and challenges to the Guardian ad Litem’s role, ensuring a more stable and focused legal process for the best interests of Virginia children. Attempts to have a GAL removed or replaced are lessened by this new language.

Supreme Court Guardian ad Litem Protections

The Supreme Court of Virginia’s decision in Padula-Wilson v. Landry further strengthens the legal shield around GALs in Virginia family law cases. In this context, some parents have tried to levy tortious interference claims against GALs, blaming them for unfavorable outcomes like loss of custody or parental rights. However, the Supreme Court’s stance is clear: such claims are unfounded as GALs are fulfilling their court-appointed duties to protect Virginia children. Again, their involvement is not intended to disadvantage a parent, but to prioritize and safeguard the child’s interests and well-being.

Guardian ad Litem is an Often Needed Role in Virginia Courtrooms

In Virginia, family law matters frequently necessitate the involvement of a Guardian ad Litem due to their specific knowledge and ability to focus on the child’s needs. Sometimes, your legal counsel might recommend the appointment of a GAL to ensure protection for your child, and more frequently, to avoid your child testifying. Our firm is committed to employing all necessary resources to protect Virginia’s children and families.

Going through a challenging custody case is never easy but having the right support system makes a significant difference. Whether you are trying to preserve your right as a noncustodial parent or need assistance protecting your child from a parent who acts against the best interests of your child, contact Rinehart Bryant for legal guidance and support in these sensitive and critical matters.

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