Guardian Ad Litem for Children

The Child Advocate Law Firm PLLC is dedicated to providing compassionate, effective, and highly skilled representation to children as guardian ad litem.

Put simply, a guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent a child’s best interests. Judges are routinely required to make critical decisions related to children such as when and how long a child will be removed from their home, who is allowed access to a child, and what custodial schedule will be put in place for a child. The decisions made in Court every day have a lifetime of consequences for the children involved. The Child Advocate Law Firm is committed to giving children a voice and being part of the solution to restore hope and dreams in children who find themselves in the middle of a court dispute.

The Court is required to appoint a guardian ad litem in foster care cases. Children who are in foster care have gone through the trauma of being removed from a parent’s care because of alleged abuse or neglect. The child must then adjust to a new life in foster care while the child’s parents and social services are pursuing reunification efforts. The child must heal from the past and face an unknown future. Children in foster care are some of the most vulnerable children in our society.

The Court has discretion as to whether to appoint a guardian ad litem in cases involving custody and visitation. Children who are the subject of highly contested custody and visitation cases are also vulnerable, as the Court is required to make decisions that will have long-term implications for the child’s life. If neither party has an attorney and there are allegations of abuse it is more likely that a guardian ad litem will be appointed. Even when attorneys represent both parties, it is not always the case that the child has a voice in the proceeding since parents can become blind to what is in the child’s best interest when they are fighting for their own rights. Having an independent investigation of the facts and recommendations made by a guardian ad litem always serves the best interest of the child.

In child custody and visitation proceedings between parents, the Court applies the best interest of the child standard found in the section 20-124.3 of the Code of Virginia.  Thus, any recommendation made by The Child Advocate Law Firm in a custody and visitation case will be based upon an analysis of the best interest factors.  The best interest factors are as follows:

1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;

2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;

3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;

4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;

5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;

6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;

7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;

8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;

9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and

10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

Children deserve to have an attorney who will develop a relationship with them, fight for their best interest, and give them a voice. The Child Advocate Law Firm PLLC can be counted on to follow Rule 8:6 of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court which states that the role of the guardian ad litem for children is to “vigorously represent the child, fully protecting the child’s interest and welfare.”

*Please note that The Child Advocate Law Firm PLLC cannot be privately retained to represent a child without a Court Order. Guardians ad litem must be appointed by the Court.

Morgan accepts appointments as guardian ad litem for children in abuse, neglect, child in need of services, child in need of supervision, adoption, custody and visitation proceedings.

The Judicial Council of Virginia developed Standards To Govern the Performance of Guardians Ad Litem for Children.  When Morgan is appointed as a guardian ad litem it can be expected that she will fulfill the following duties:

  1. Meet Face to Face and interview the child.
  2. Conduct an independent investigation in order to ascertain the facts of the case.
  3. Advise the child, in terms the child can understand, of the nature of all proceedings, the child’s rights, the role and responsibilities of the guardian ad litem, the court process and the possible consequences of the legal action.
  4. Participate, as appropriate, in pre-trial conferences, mediation and negotiations.
  5. Ensure the child’s attendance at all proceedings where the child’s attendance is appropriate and/or mandated.
  6. Appear in Court on the dates and times scheduled for hearings prepared to fully and vigorously represent the child’s interests.
  7. Prepare the child to testify, when necessary and appropriate, in accord with the child’s interest and welfare.
  8. Provide the court sufficient information including specific recommendations for court action based on the findings of the interviews and independent investigation.
  9. Communicate, coordinate and maintain a professional working relationship, in so far as possible, with all parties without sacrificing independence.
  10. File appropriate petitions, motions, pleadings, briefs and appeals on behalf of the child and ensure that the child is represented by a guardian ad litem in any appeal involving the case.
  11. Advise the child, in terms the child can understand, of the court’s decision and its consequences for the child and others in the child’s life.

Standards To Govern the Performance of Guardians Ad Litem for Children as adopted by the Judicial Council of Virginia effective September 1, 2003.