West Virginia Judiciary

Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court

Appendix B

Guidelines for guardians Ad LItem in family court

 

  1. A guardian ad litem appointment is a unique and complex assignment and, as such, requires education, training and experience with the regard to the needs of children. Every guardian ad litem shall complete eight (8) hours of continuing legal education credits every two years provided by the West Virginia Supreme Court comprising of: understanding the stages of child development from early childhood through adolescence; recognizing the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect and their effects upon children; recognizing the signs and characteristics of domestic violence and their effects upon children; recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug and/or alcohol abuse and addiction in both children and adults; recognizing the emotional effects of parental conflict on children; preparing of parenting plans that adequately safeguard the child's opportunity to have a relationship with both parents unless otherwise contraindicated by the facts; interviewing techniques for both children and adults; analyzing facts and making meaningful recommendations to ensure child safety; and preparing written guardian ad litem reports and recommendations.

  2. The guardian ad litem (GAL) shall accept an appointment only if he or she has a thorough understanding of the issues involved and the functions to be performed. If the GAL finds the appointment order to be unclear, the GAL should request clarification and/or modification of the order.

  3. The GAL shall obtain and review the court file, as well as all relevant copies of school, medical, Child Protective Services, or other records necessary to thoroughly understand and investigate the case.

  4. The GAL shall immediately make contact with the child and parents/caretakers upon appointment by the court.

  5. The GAL shall schedule a face-to-face meeting with the child at a time and place that allows for observation and private consultation with the GAL unless the court specifically determines that such a meeting would be inappropriate given the age, medical and/or psychological condition of the child.

  6. The GAL shall thoroughly explain to a child capable of understanding, parents/caretakers and the attorneys of record the general role of the GAL, the specific reasons for the GAL's appointment and the expectations of the court.

  7. The GAL shall meet with both parents (if applicable) and/or caretakers to ascertain each party's concerns, needs, and responsibilities with regard to parenting the child. During the meeting with the parents and/or caregivers, the GAL shall ascertain each party's understanding of the needs and concerns of the child.

  8. When appropriate, the GAL shall conduct home visits of the child’s parents/caretakers to observe their respective living environments and the interaction of the parents/caretakers with the child.

  9. When appropriate, the GAL shall interview the child's caseworkers, therapists, school personnel and/or medical providers to obtain information about the child's needs and any concerns they have regarding the child. During such interview, the GAL should inquire about the roles and responsibilities each parent has in the child's life and each parent's relationship with the child.

  10. When appropriate, the GAL shall interview relatives, neighbors and/or other individuals with relevant knowledge of the child or parents and the facts that gave rise to the allegations underlying the appointment of the GAL.

  11. If the GAL believes that the parties and/or the child should undergo further evaluations, then the GAL shall file a motion with the court requesting same. Said motion shall clearly set forth the reasons why such evaluations are deemed necessary by the GAL.

  12. The GAL shall complete his or her investigation with sufficient time between the interviews and court appearances for the GAL to thoroughly analyze the information gleaned, take appropriate actions and formulate meaningful arguments and written recommendations to the court.

  13. The GAL shall disclose to the court the child's wishes unless the GAL believes such disclosure would jeopardize the child's safety. If the child's wishes are contrary to the GAL's assessment of the child's best interests, the GAL may request that an attorney be appointed to serve as counsel for the child. The court may appoint an attorney to represent the child if the court finds that a conflict of interest has arisen between the GAL and the child.

  14. The GAL shall include in his or her written report to the court the following: the dates on which face-to-face contacts with the child occurred and any observations of the child with the parents or caretakers; an outline of all records and documents reviewed; a summary of all relevant portions of any records and documents reviewed; the name of each person interviewed and the manner in which they were interviewed (i.e. whether by telephone or in person); provided, however, the GAL may petition the court to seal or redact information as provided in Rule 47 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court. The GAL shall also fully explain any special needs, medical and/or psychological conditions of the child and the ability and willingness of each parent to provide for the needs of the child. The GAL may attach any necessary documents to the written recommendation. Medical and/or mental health records of the parents/caretakers relevant to the written report of the GAL shall be sealed in the court record and shall not be attached to the written report.

  15. The GAL shall provide the court with sufficient information including specific recommendations for court action based on the findings of the interviews and independent investigation. In cases involving parenting responsibilities, the recommendations shall provide clear and concise requirements of both parents to accomplish the recommendations of the GAL. The GAL shall review all relevant statutory provisions regarding allocation of custodial responsibility and shall support the proposed allocation of custodial responsibility recommended to the court.

  16. The GAL shall be prepared to explain and advocate his or her assessments and recommendations in all proceedings before the court.

  17. The GAL shall be present at all court hearings and respond to all motions and appeals which affect the recommendations of the GAL or interests of the child during the pendency of the case. The GAL shall review all parenting agreements between the parents/caretakers and shall advise the court if he or she has any concerns regarding the agreement.

  18. If appropriate, the court may require the GAL to monitor the case for a reasonable period set by the court to ensure the parties are complying with the court’s order. The GAL shall provide a brief, written progress report consisting of whether the parties are following the order of the court; whether the recommendations made by the GAL are providing for the needs of the child; and any concerns the GAL may have regarding the child.

[Added by order adopted April 20, 2012, effective July 1, 2012. ]

Back