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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Virginia Guardianships


Children with mental or developmental disabilities grow up and, as adults, they are not capable of taking care of themselves or handling their own affairs. This means they are incapacitated and need someone to look out for them and act on their behalf. Here a look at some of the more frequently asked questions about guardianships in Virginia.

What is the difference between a guardian and a conservator?

An appointed guardian makes decisions regarding the person’s care, health, education, treatment, residence, and more. A conservator, on the other hand, is responsible for managing the financial affairs and the estate of the person.

Once a guardian is appointed, can the incapacitated person make any decisions on their own?

In theory, no. At least not when it comes to major fundamental rights. The incapacitated person may not be able to choose where they want to live, how to spend money, drive or even vote. Unfortunately, incapacitated people can be at risk for theft, neglect, or even abuse by court appointed guardians or conservators, so it’s important to consider this process carefully.

If there is a risk with guardianships, are there any alternatives to them?

You may look into supported decision-making in some instances, but it depends on the particular case. You may want a durable power of attorney, especially if all the person needs is assistance with is making medical decisions. Guardianships are either limited or full. If you opt for a limited guardianship, this means the guardian is only authorized to make specific decisions. For limited guardianships and conservatorships that are necessary for medical and financial decisions only, the court can decide to let the person rent an apartment or exercise their right to vote.

If this alternative is not a good solution, then appointing a guardian and/or conservator may be the only option.

Is the guardian a random person the court appoints?

Typically, a family member or trusted friend might step up to be the person’s guardian. It’s important to really think about the commitment level here and how much time and energy this will take, not to mention how it will affect your relationship. If there are no family members who are willing to take on the role, the court will appoint a guardian.

What are some of the signs that someone might need a guardian?

People having functional capacity obstacles that keep them from taking care of their own basic needs, or if they are at risk for substantial harm.

Retaining a Virginia Family Law Attorney

If you’re considering having a guardian appointed, it’s important to hire a skilled Virginia family law attorney to walk you through the process. The attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC have years of experience handling guardianship matters, as well as all other areas of family law. Contact our office today at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.



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