Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 16.1. Courts Not of Record
11/21/2018

Article 6. Appointment of Counsel.

§ 16.1-266. Appointment of counsel and guardian ad litem.

A. Prior to the hearing by the court of any case involving a child who is alleged to be abused or neglected or who is the subject of an entrustment agreement or a petition seeking termination of residual parental rights or who is otherwise before the court pursuant to subdivision A 4 of § 16.1-241 or § 63.2-1230, the court shall appoint a discreet and competent attorney-at-law as guardian ad litem to represent the child pursuant to § 16.1-266.1.

B. Prior to the detention hearing held pursuant to § 16.1-250, the court shall appoint a qualified and competent attorney-at-law to represent the child unless an attorney has been retained and appears on behalf of the child. For the purposes of appointment of counsel for the detention hearing held pursuant to § 16.1-250 only, a child's indigence shall be presumed. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a judge from releasing a child from detention prior to appointment of counsel.

C. Subsequent to the detention hearing, if any, and prior to the adjudicatory or transfer hearing by the court of any case involving a child who is alleged to be in need of services, in need of supervision or delinquent, such child and his parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis shall be informed by a judge, clerk or probation officer of the child's right to counsel and of the liability of the parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis for the costs of such legal services pursuant to § 16.1-267 and be given an opportunity to:

1. Obtain and employ counsel of the child's own choice; or

2. Request that the court appoint counsel, provided that before counsel is appointed or the court continues any appointment previously made pursuant to subsection B, the court shall determine that the child is indigent within the contemplation of the law pursuant to guidelines set forth in § 19.2-159 by requiring the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis to complete a statement of indigence substantially in the form provided by § 19.2-159 and a financial statement, and upon determination of indigence the court shall appoint an attorney from the list maintained by the Indigent Defense Commission pursuant to § 19.2-163.01 to represent the child; or

3. Waive the right to representation by an attorney, if the court finds the child and the parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis of the child consent, in writing, and such waiver is consistent with the interests of the child. Such written waiver shall be in accordance with law and shall be filed with the court records of the case. A child who is alleged to have committed an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, may waive such right only after he consults with an attorney and the court determines that his waiver is free and voluntary. The waiver shall be in writing, signed by both the child and the child's attorney and shall be filed with the court records of the case.

D. A judge, clerk or probation officer shall inform the parent or guardian of his right to counsel prior to the adjudicatory hearing of a petition in which a child is alleged to be abused or neglected or at risk of abuse or neglect as provided in subdivision A 2a of § 16.1-241 and prior to a hearing at which a parent could be subjected to the loss of residual parental rights. In addition, prior to the hearing by the court of any case involving any other adult charged with abuse or neglect of a child, this adult shall be informed of his right to counsel. This adult and the parent or guardian shall be given an opportunity to:

1. Obtain and employ counsel of the parent's, guardian's or other adult's own choice; or

2. If the court determines that the parent, guardian or other adult is indigent within the contemplation of the law pursuant to the guidelines set forth in § 19.2-159, a statement substantially in the form provided by § 19.2-159 and a financial statement shall be executed by such parent, guardian or other adult and the court shall appoint an attorney-at-law to represent him; or

3. Waive the right to representation by an attorney in accordance with the provisions of § 19.2-160.

If the identity or location of a parent or guardian is not reasonably ascertainable or a parent or guardian fails to appear, the court shall consider appointing an attorney-at-law to represent the interests of the absent parent or guardian, and the hearing may be held.

Prior to a hearing at which a child is the subject of an initial foster care plan filed pursuant to § 16.1-281, a foster care review hearing pursuant to § 16.1-282 and a permanency planning hearing pursuant to § 16.1-282.1, the court shall consider appointing counsel to represent the child's parent or guardian.

E. In those cases described in subsections A, B, C and D, which in the discretion of the court require counsel or a guardian ad litem to represent the child or children or the parent or guardian or other adult party in addition to the representation provided in those subsections, a discreet and competent attorney-at-law may be appointed by the court as counsel or a guardian ad litem.

F. In all other cases which in the discretion of the court require counsel or a guardian ad litem, or both, to represent the child or children or the parent or guardian, discreet and competent attorneys-at-law may be appointed by the court. However, in cases where the custody of a child or children is the subject of controversy or requires determination and each of the parents or other persons claiming a right to custody is represented by counsel, the court shall not appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child or children unless the court finds, at any stage in the proceedings in a specific case, that the interests of the child or children are not otherwise adequately represented.

G. Any state or local agency, department, authority or institution and any school, hospital, physician or other health or mental health care provider shall permit a guardian ad litem or counsel for the child appointed pursuant to this section to inspect and copy, without the consent of the child or his parents, any records relating to the child whom the guardian or counsel represents upon presentation by him of a copy of the court order appointing him or a court order specifically allowing him such access. Upon request therefor by the guardian ad litem or counsel for the child made at least 72 hours in advance, a mental health care provider shall make himself available to conduct a review and interpretation of the child's treatment records which are specifically related to the investigation. Such a request may be made in lieu of or in addition to inspection and copying of the records.

Code 1950, §§ 16.1-173, 63.1-248.12; 1956, c. 555; 1966, c. 709; 1968, c. 581; 1970, c. 87; 1973, c. 440; 1974, c. 513; 1975, cc. 341, 465, 559; 1977, c. 559; 1980, c. 572; 1982, c. 451; 1984, c. 709; 1985, c. 260; 1987, c. 632; 1994, c. 36; 1997, c. 790; 2002, c. 687; 2003, c. 98; 2004, cc. 66, 437, 884, 921, 1014; 2005, c. 427.

§ 16.1-266.1. Standards for attorneys appointed as guardians ad litem; list of qualified attorneys; attorneys appointed for parents or guardians.

A. On or before January 1, 1995, the Judicial Council of Virginia, in conjunction with the Virginia State Bar and the Virginia Bar Association, shall adopt standards for attorneys appointed as guardians ad litem pursuant to § 16.1-266. The standards shall, insofar as practicable, take into consideration the following criteria: (i) license or permission to practice law in Virginia, (ii) current training in the roles, responsibilities and duties of guardian ad litem representation, (iii) familiarity with the court system and general background in juvenile law, and (iv) demonstrated proficiency in this area of the law.

B. The Judicial Council shall maintain a list of attorneys admitted to practice law in Virginia who are qualified to serve as guardians ad litem based upon the standards and shall make the names available to the courts. If no attorney who is on the list is reasonably available, a judge in his discretion may appoint any discreet and competent attorney who is admitted to practice law in Virginia.

C. Counsel appointed for a parent or guardian pursuant to subsection D of § 16.1-266 shall be selected from the list of attorneys who are qualified to serve as guardians ad litem. If no attorney who is on the list is reasonably available or appropriate considering the circumstances of the parent or case, a judge in his discretion may appoint any discreet and competent attorney who is admitted to practice law in Virginia.

1994, c. 36; 1995, c. 273; 2016, cc. 182, 509.

§ 16.1-266.2. Appointment of pro bono counsel by judges of the First and Second Judicial District in certain cases.

The judges of the juvenile and domestic relations district court of the First and Second Judicial District are authorized to appoint pro bono counsel for alleged victims in family abuse cases in which the court is authorized to issue a preliminary protective order under § 16.1-253.1, or an emergency protective order under § 16.1-253.4. Such counsel shall have no prosecutorial authority except as granted in writing by the attorney for the Commonwealth for the jurisdiction in which the representation is to occur.

Any attorney appointed under the provisions of this section shall be a volunteer and serve without compensation and shall be subject to any rules adopted by the court and approved by the Virginia Supreme Court providing for the establishment and conduct of a project providing pro bono services to victims of family abuse.

1995, c. 806.

§ 16.1-267. Compensation of appointed counsel.

A. When the court appoints counsel to represent a child pursuant to subsection A of § 16.1-266 and, after an investigation by the court services unit, finds that the parents are financially able to pay for the attorney and refuse to do so, the court shall assess costs against the parents for such legal services in the maximum amount of that awarded the attorney by the court under the circumstances of the case, considering such factors as the ability of the parents to pay and the nature and extent of the counsel's duties in the case. Such amount shall not exceed the maximum amount specified in subdivision 1 of § 19.2-163 if the action is in district court.

When the court appoints counsel to represent a child pursuant to subsection B or C of § 16.1-266 and, after an investigation by the court services unit, finds that the parents are financially able to pay for the attorney in whole or in part and refuse to do so, the court shall assess costs in whole or in part against the parents for such legal services in the amount awarded the attorney by the court. Such amount shall not exceed $100 if the action is in circuit court or the maximum amount specified in subdivision 1 of § 19.2-163 if the action is in district court. In determining the financial ability of the parents to pay for an attorney to represent the child, the court shall utilize the financial statement required by § 19.2-159.

In all other cases, except as provided in § 16.1-343, counsel appointed to represent a child shall be compensated for his services pursuant to § 19.2-163.

B. When the court appoints counsel to represent a parent, guardian or other adult pursuant to § 16.1-266, such counsel shall be compensated for his services pursuant to § 19.2-163.

C. 1. In any proceeding in which the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent a child pursuant to § 16.1-266, the court shall order the parent, or other party with a legitimate interest who has filed a petition in such proceeding, to reimburse the Commonwealth the costs of such services in an amount not to exceed the amount awarded the guardian ad litem by the court. If the court determines that such party is unable to pay, the required reimbursement may be reduced or eliminated. No party whom the court determines to be indigent pursuant to § 19.2-159 shall be required to pay reimbursement except where the court finds good cause to do so. The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court shall administer the guardian ad litem program and shall report August 1 and January 1 of each year to the Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on the amounts paid for guardian ad litem purposes, amounts reimbursed, savings achieved, and management actions taken to further enhance savings under this program.

2. For good cause shown, or upon the failure by the guardian ad litem to substantially comply with the standards adopted for attorneys appointed as guardians ad litem pursuant to § 16.1-266.1, the court may adjust the cost sought by the guardian ad litem of such services.

3. For the purposes of this subsection, "other party with a legitimate interest" shall not include child welfare agencies or local departments of social services.

Code 1950, § 16.1-173; 1956, c. 555; 1966, c. 709; 1968, c. 581; 1970, c. 87; 1973, c. 440; 1974, c. 513; 1975, cc. 465, 559; 1977, c. 559; 1981, c. 213; 1984, c. 709; 1986, c. 425; 1993, c. 344; 2004, cc. 342, 437; 2017, c. 676; 2018, c. 688.

§ 16.1-268. Order of appointment.

The order of appointment of counsel pursuant to § 16.1-266 shall be filed with and become a part of the record of such proceeding. The attorney so appointed shall represent the child or parent, guardian or other adult at any such hearing and at all other stages of the proceeding unless relieved or replaced in the manner provided by law.

1977, c. 559.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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