By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
When children can’t speak for themselves in court, the guardians ad litem step in.
“They are the voice of the children,” said retired Circuit Judge Fred L. Fox II.
Guardians ad litem in family court, and abuse and neglect cases, are attorneys appointed by family court or circuit court judges to represent the best interests of children involved in cases in those courts.
They attend to the child’s emotional and legal needs, monitor the child’s family, and seek to shield the child from the often bruising experience of a lawsuit.
In addition to compiling relevant facts, interviewing witnesses, giving testimony and making recommendations to the court on issues of custody and visitation, they ensure that all parties comply with court orders.
Through a series of opinions, the Supreme Court in the last few years clarified standards and expectations for guardians ad litem. The Supreme Court earlier this year approved new guidelines for guardians ad litem in family court cases and is reviewing new guidelines for guardians ad litem in abuse and neglect cases, which are handled in circuit court.