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 Service members Civil Relief Act requires the courts to appoint a guardian ad litem in civil cases involving a military service member. A chief directive for the guardian ad litems is to take steps to apprise the service member of the fact that a civil suit i.e., divorce, warrant in debt, or unlawful detainer action has been filed against them and to ascertain if the service member's military duties materially impair the service member's ability to address the suit.