Judges Can No Longer Delegate Judicial Decision Making in Child Custody Cases to Outside Professionals, Including GAL Attorneys

Child custody is a crucial issue in your divorce matter, as your children are often your world. The Virginia Courts have traditionally delegated custody determinations such as the frequency, length, and substance of parenting time to outside professionals. This takes the burden off the judge and instead allows another trained professional to make this decision based on their personal assessments of your family. However, a 2016 case held that judges cannot delegate this judicial decision making process in custody cases to outside professionals. Attorney Van Smith and his colleagues at Smith Strong, PLC can help guide you through the child custody process and ensure the best interests of your child are maintained.

Judges Cannot Delegate the Judicial Decision Making Process in Custody Cases to Outside Professionals: As Seen in Two Recent Virginia Cases

In Bonhotel v. Watts, the Virginia Court of Appeals stated that delegating judicial decision making power to outside professionals in custody cases, “impinges upon parenting decisions protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”  This same idea was upheld in another Virginia case, occurring just days after Bonhotel was decided.

Reilly v. Reilly ruled that the Circuit Court could not allow a third party, including a guardian ad litem to decide a mother’s visitation schedule without approval by the court. This is inconsistent with the Virginia Code.

Court Has Discretion in Determining Custody Matters

It is now entirely at the Court’s discretion in determining custody matters. Outside experts can provide their opinions, but all decisions must ultimately be made by a judge. Contact Smith Strong, PLC today for more information on child custody cases in Virginia.

H. Van Smith
Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg