In many child custody cases, judges will appoint a Guardian ad Litem, also known as a GAL. Guardian ad Litem means “guardian for the suit”. A GAL in Virginia is an attorney who helps assist the judge in determining the circumstances of the case.
A GAL’s role is to represent the children in the proceeding. The GAL will speak with the children about the relationship they have with each parent and the current custody situation. The GAL will also talk with each parent and may do a home visit. In some cases, the GAL will even talk with extended family members, teachers, or the children’s doctor.
After conducting their investigation, the GAL will make a report and recommendation to the judge. The GAL will make their determination based on what is in the best interest of the children. The court is not bound by the GAL’s recommendation, but many judges give great deference to the GAL’s findings.
If your custody case involves a GAL, be courteous, respectful, and open. In addition, be aware that anything you say or do in the presence of a GAL can and likely will be reported to the judge.