About Guardians Ad Litem for Children
The Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia, administers the guardian ad litem (GAL) for children program on behalf of the Judicial Council of Virginia pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-266.1. The program qualifies attorneys to serve as a GAL and provides information to juvenile and domestic relations district courts and circuit courts about attorneys who meet the requirements of the “Standards to Govern the Appointment of Guardians Ad Litem” adopted by the Judicial Council. The list of qualified guardians ad litem is updated monthly, on or about the 1st of the month.
The appointment of a GAL by a juvenile and domestic relations district court is mandatory in certain cases and permissive in others. Virginia Code § 16.1-266 provides that a juvenile and domestic relations district court shall appoint a GAL in any case involving a child who is:
- alleged to be abused or neglected.
- the subject of an entrustment agreement.
- the subject of a petition seeking termination of residual parental rights.
- the subject of a proceeding where the parent(s) seeks to be relieved of the child’s care or custody.
A juvenile and domestic relations district court shall also appoint a GAL in cases involving a child who is:
- the subject of a foster care plan review or a hearing to review the child’s status in foster care. Virginia Code § 16.1-281.
- seeking emancipation. Virginia Code § 16.1-332.
- the subject of a proceeding by parents seeking to commit an objecting minor, 14 years of age or older, to a psychiatric facility. Virginia Code § 16.1-339.
- the subject of a petition for involuntary commitment. Virginia Code § 16.1-341.
The court may appoint a GAL in other cases, which in the discretion of the court require a GAL. Virginia Code § 16.1-266. These include certain custody cases where parents or persons claiming custody are represented by counsel (Virginia Code § 16.1-266), as well as those cases in which a petition is filed by a juvenile seeking judicial authorization for a physician to perform an abortion (Virginia Code § 16.1-241).
The circuit court may appoint a GAL for a child in a custody, visitation or support case being litigated incident to divorce proceedings and in appeals of cases from the juvenile court.