Posts Tagged ‘Lawyer’

What is a GAL and why did the judge appoint one in my case?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you are charged with a crime, and there is a possibility that you might be sentenced to at least 6 months in jail, and you cannot afford an attorney, the Judge can appoint an attorney to represent you in that case.  This attorney is appointed to advocate on your behalf and to assist you in your defense.

The Court in Virginia can also appoint another type of attorney if your situation meets the criteria set by the court, and the Judge feels it is appropriate.

‘GAL’ stands for ‘Guardian Ad Litem’.  There are two parts to this term.  Part one is ‘Guardian’ which means someone who acts for the benefit of another, and part two is ‘Ad Litem’ which means ‘for the Lawsuit’.  So, the court may appoint someone to act for the benefit of another for the purpose of the lawsuit.  The person that is appointed by the court is called the ‘GAL’.

The court may appoint a GAL when a party to the lawsuit is incapacitated in some way.

Most of us think of incapacity as having a mental or health disability, and this is considered a physical incapacity.

Someone is also considered legally incapacitated when they are unable to attend court themselves.  This might be because they are in the military and stationed away from home.  Or perhaps the person can’t be found because none of the persons involved in the court case knows where they live now.  Or perhaps they are incarcerated.

In all of these situations, a GAL can be appointed to represent the adult who is not able to represent himself.  The role of the GAL in these cases is to make sure that the adult is treated fairly in the legal case and that any decision that is made by the court is not going to permanently put the represented person at an unfair disadvantage.

Another type of incapacity is based on age.  A person under the age of maturity, which is the age of 18 in Virginia, is also considered legally incapacitated.

If a child, under the age of 18, is charged with a crime it is possible that the court will appoint both an attorney to defend the child against the criminal charges and a GAL to look out for the best interests of the child.

Another time when the court might appoint a GAL is during a legal case regarding custody or visitation of a child.

When parents are fighting over custody and visitation of their children, the courts base their decisions on the best interests of the child.   Most of the time, the parents really do believe that what they are trying to do is in the best interest of the child.  But everyone must understand that the parent’s vision of the best interest of the child is colored by the position of that parent.  That is why the courts will often appoint a GAL to represent the best interest of the children.

The GAL does not represent either the mother or the father, and if either parent wants to have an attorney, they should retain one on their own.

The GAL  for the child has the ability, and the duty, to look at all aspects of the child’s life.  The GAL is able to talk to the child’s teacher, doctor, day-care provider and any other person that can bring input about the child’s life.  The GAL also talks with each parent and will usually do a visit to the parent’s home, generally while the child is there so the GAL can see how the child and the parent interact with each other.

If the child is old enough, and mature enough, the GAL will listen to what the child wants and take the child’s desires into consideration.  But, the GAL is not there to advocate for what the child says he/she wants.  The GAL is there to report on the situation and to make a recommendation on what is in the child’s best interest.

The GAL might provide a written report to the Judge before the trial, or the GAL report might be given as oral testimony at the trial.  In either case, the Judge will consider the GAL report as one additional piece of evidence to be considered.

The Judge is the one that makes the final determination.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Do I really need a lawyer?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

In Virginia, you are allowed to represent yourself in almost all legal matters at the trial court level.  The only other person that can legally represent you is an attorney that is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

However, you should be aware that a company is not a person – it is a legal entity that cannot stand or speak and it doesn’t need to drink when it gets thirsty.  What this means is that if your company is involved in a legal dispute, you will need to have an attorney represent the company in court.

Even in those situations where you CAN represent yourself, it is often a good idea to hire an attorney.

First of all, you are emotionally involved in the legal circumstance and we all tend to think differently, or not think at all, when our emotions are involved.  The attorney also gets involved in your case, but he/she is trained to present the arguments in a logical manner that will assist the court in deciding in your favor.

An attorney also knows what the court thinks is important and he/she will make sure that the court knows those things and not dwell on things that really aren’t important when the court makes their decision.  As an example, I had a DUI case where the driver told the officer that he had been drinking margaritas.  The driver thought he had a great defense because he had really been drinking whiskey sours.  The driver didn’t realize that it doesn’t really matter what he was drinking, the important part is that his blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.

Also, the courts have very specific ways in which things must be handled and if you don’t do it just right, it is possible that the court will dismiss your case or rule against you.  I know this sounds like the courts are set up to provide work for lawyers, but the rules are really there to keep the legal process moving smoothly.  If you’ve ever been to court on one of those days when the courtroom is packed with people waiting their turn, you can understand why it is important to have rules about how things are handled.

But, even if you need an attorney for part of the process you can often do other parts yourself.

We encourage people to go to court for a ‘return date’ themselves and hire us after that court date.  Why?  You can often sit for hours waiting for your case to be called only to go to the front and have the judge give you a date for the trial.  I will be glad to sit with you, but it can get very expensive to hire an attorney to sit for hours just to stand in front of the judge for 30 seconds to say ‘we dispute the charges’.

How do you know if there is something you can do yourself?  When I have a consultation with someone, I tell them what to expect and how I would proceed if it were my legal situation.  I also explain what parts they can do themselves and when they should hire a professional.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

What is a court appointed attorney?

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

If you are charged with an offense that could possibly result in you being sent to jail, and you can’t afford an attorney, you have the right to have an attorney appointed to represent you.

In order to qualify for an appointed attorney, you need to meet some low income guidelines.  If you don’t meet these guidelines, the court determines that you can afford to hire an attorney on your own, and you are not eligible to have an attorney appointed to represent you.

In some courts in this area, there is a public defender’s office that handles most of these cases.  In other courts, there is no public defender and so the court needs to find other attorneys that will accept the appointments.  There might also be a situation where there is a conflict in the public defender’s office, so sometimes the court needs to find another attorney to accept this particular appointment even though most of the time the public defender’s office is used.

Who pays for these attorneys?  The Commonwealth of Virginia, which means the taxpayers of Virginia.

But the attorney does not get paid at their ‘normal’ retained rate.   Instead, the court appointed attorney gets paid a very reduced rate.

The court does not just go out on the street to find the first attorney walking by.  All of the court appointed attorneys need to meet training standards to be allowed on the list in the first place, and they then need to continue to get additional training in order to remain on the list.

Most of the court appointed attorneys also handle privately retained clients, and they agree to take court appointed cases as a way of helping the community.

What does this mean to you?  If you happen to have a court appointed attorney, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that your attorney is well qualified.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

July is Sandwich Generation Month!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

When I hear the word ‘Sandwich’ I tend to think of Peanut-Butter and Jelly, which always brings a smile to my face.

But there is a new way of viewing ‘Sandwich’ that is not so much fun.  That’s the role more of us are playing by being the caregivers of both our parents and our children.

In the grand scheme, this is not really anything new.  Families used to always take care of the generations, often in a single home.  Grandma and Grandpa shared the same home with their children and grandchildren providing wisdom and assistance as the new generation came along, and receiving the attention and care of those in the family as they slowed down in their elder years.

But things changed, especially here in the United States, and families tended to live in their own separate homes with Grandma and Grandpa often living across town or even across the country.  Most of us today can’t imagine even sharing a room with a sister or brother, let alone imagine sharing a home with Grandma or Grandpa.

None of us would consider leaving a two-year old home alone.  After all, the two-year old can’t really get food to eat or make sure they make it to the bathroom on time.  And there are things in the home that could injure the child if they are not used correctly.  The two-year old is also just learning about freedom and self-reliance and if the two-year old refuses to do what we tell them to do for their own good, we can pick them up and put them in their bedroom for a ‘time out’.  The parents get to set the ground rules because a two-year old doesn’t know that it is even possible to stay up past 8:00.

It’s a different story with our aging parents.  They DO know that they can stay up past 8:00, and they’ve done it for years!  Why, they even taught US!  And most of the time, they are too large to pick up and physically move to the bedroom for a ‘time out’ when they get cantankerous.  Unfortunately, our aging parents might also be in the position of not being able to get food for themselves or eating correctly, or making it to the bathroom on time, or using things in the home that can cause injury if not used correctly.

Our parents are living longer and having more health issues, both physical and mental, then previous generations.  I know there was nobody in my family that ever got cancer until my uncle was diagnosed a few years ago.  But nobody in the family had ever lived to be 85 before either.   On my dad’s side of the family, there wasn’t a history of dementia until the family members starting living into their 90’s.

Luckily, there are more and more services available to help us take care of our parents.  These services can take away some of the stress involved in day-to-day chores such as making sure that our parents are eating correctly and being kept clean and safe.  There was a time when babysitters and day-care centers for children were a new concept, even though today we see them as an established institution in our lifestyle.  It appears that there will come a day when adult care givers and adult day-care centers will also become established in our lifestyle.

These services cost money.  But unlike children who have no resources of their own, often our parents will have some resources available to them to help pay for the services needed for their care.

Also, as parents of minor children you have the legal authority to make decisions for your children.  This is not so for your parents.  It is important to have the correct documents in place so that you have the authority to make important and day-to-day decisions for your aging parents.  These include Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives.  You might also want to consider establishing a Trust so that your parent’s assets can be transferred with a minimum of hassle and used for their benefit.

What should you do?  Read…there are a lot of resources available on the web.  Talk to your parents…find out what they want while they are able to tell you.  Talk to people you trust…your doctor, your pastor, your lawyer.  Ask them to recommend services or service providers that they trust.  Unfortunately there are some scams out there that sound good but don’t really offer the right services for your needs.  And most of all, have patience. Remember that these are the people that spent their time raising you, dealing with you when you made mistakes and who helped mold you into who you are today.  Be patient with them, knowing that they are also having difficulty dealing with this role reversal.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Hampton Office !

Friday, May 20th, 2011

We have just opened a new satellite office to better serve our clients in the Hampton area.

Our Hampton office is in the Peninsula Town Center with an address of:

Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law

4410 Claiborne Sq, Suite 334

Hampton, VA 23666

You can use the same phone number of 757-234-4650 to access us at either office (don’t you just love technology!)

To learn more about Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law, check out our website at