Persons appearing in the Civil Division may represent themselves or may retain an attorney. In most instances, corporations and partnerships are required to be represented by counsel. Although the General District Court provides fairly easy to understand forms and samples for most civil actions, the issues may be complex and individuals may be unfamiliar with the Rules of Evidence that apply to the proceedings. If the opposing party has counsel, it may be particularly difficult for a person to appear pro se (without an attorney). Clerks can assist with forms and explain court procedures, however, they are not attorneys and cannot provide legal information. Any legal questions should be directed to an attorney.
Although defendants are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney in civil actions, the judge may appoint a Guardian ad litem under certain circumstances. §8.01-9 of the Code of Virginia allows for the appointment of a Guardian ad litem if the defendant is incarcerated, an active member of the armed forces who is unable to appear, a minor, or a person whom the Court has judged is unable to represent themselves due to a mental incapacity. In these instances, the plaintiff bears the initial cost and must provide payment to the Guardian ad litem as directed by the judge at the conclusion of the case.