Guardians Ad Litem (Virginia's Judicial System)
Guardian ad litem (GAL) literally means “guardian for the suit.” A guardian ad litem in Virginia is an attorney appointed by a judge to assist the court in determining the circumstances of a matter before the court. It is the fundamental responsibility of the guardian ad litem to provide independent recommendations to the court about the client’s best interests, which can be different from advocating for what the client wants, and to bring balance to the decision-making process. The GAL may conduct interviews and investigations, make reports to the court, and participate in court hearings or mediation sessions.
The Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia, administers, maintains and distributes lists of attorneys who are qualified guardians ad litem. There are two separate guardian ad litem programs: one for children and one for incapacitated persons. The children’s program qualifies attorneys for appointment as guardians ad litem for children in juvenile and domestic relations district courts and circuit courts. The incapacitated persons’ (adult) program qualifies attorneys for appointment as guardians ad litem for incapacitated persons in circuit courts.