Greenbrier Valley Family Court Judge candidate Grady Ford discusses importance of protecting children, passion for family law

By Matthew Young, RealWV

“If you’d have asked me 15-years-ago if I would ever be running for family court judge, I would have said that’s unlikely. With my practice in Charleston, I was a business lawyer, and I worked for the City of Charleston in the City Attorney’s office.”

That’s what Lewisburg-based attorney Grady Ford said while discussing his bid for the family court bench in Greenbrier and Monroe Counties. A native of the Greenbrier Valley, Ford graduated from Greenbrier East High School in 2002, before earning his law degree at West Virginia University. 

After law school, Ford cut his teeth in Charleston, spending his first year in the city as law clerk in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ford then spent several years in private practice before plying his trade in the public sector. Ford returned to Greenbrier County with his wife in 2015 to start their family. 

“Our plan was always to come back here when we were going to have children,” Ford said. “ I’m from here. My dad and grandad have a law practice here. When my wife and I got pregnant with our first child, we made the jump back, and I joined my dad and grandfather at the firm.”

“Pretty early on it became clear that family law is what a lot of regular people need legal work for, so I started doing a fair amount of that,” Ford continued. “I was also appointed as a guardian ad litem quite a bit when I first came back to town, and I still am.”

A “guardian ad litem,” Ford explained, is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the interests of children in “high conflict divorce cases.” While these types of cases do not rise to the level of CPS involvement, the children involved often require a dedicated advocate.

“That was some of the most rewarding work I’ve done,” Ford noted. “The reason I’m running now is mostly for the kids. Everybody who goes through family court, all of their cases are important. But particularly the cases that are contentious with children are the most important ones to me.”

“In many cases, the parents aren’t a problem in and of themselves, but they do have a problem with each other,” Ford added. “The kids so often become a pawn, even though the parents don’t believe that. Nobody thinks that’s what’s happening, even if that’s what they’re doing. People are so close to things sometimes that they can’t zoom out and see the big picture.”

A big part of being a family court judge, Ford says, is to “help bring down the temperature” in divorce and custody proceedings. 

“Sometimes that requires working on the lawyers, and sometimes that requires working on the parties,” Ford explained. “But it’s essential to bring down the temperature where possible, and remove emotion and hostility as much as you can.”

Since returning to the Greenbrier Valley, Ford said his practice is evenly divided between domestic relations and family law, representing municipalities and political subdivisions, and criminal and civil litigation. 

“I think that a broad base of the law and of experiences, having that background, adds to my ability to adjudicate the cases that come before the family court,” Ford said. “Oftentimes real estate and business organization laws come into property divisions, and I have a good tool kit in dealing with all of that.”

Ford has also been involved with the Child and Youth Advocacy Center (CYAC) in Lewisburg, a relationship he hopes to continue if elected. 

“That’s something that I think the Family Court could utilize to a greater extent,” Ford noted. “They (CYAC) can do courtesy forensic interviews in cases where there are allegations concerning abuse or neglect – they can be done quickly. In a day or two that can be arranged, as opposed to appointing a guardian ad litem who begins their investigation in a few weeks, and then we’ve lost all that time.”

As he approaches his 40th birthday this summer, Ford has many more working years ahead of him. When asked if being family court judge is the final destination along his career path, Ford briefly reflected on his father-in-law, who recently passed away. 

“He and I were good buddies, and we’d sit and talk about sports or the stock market, or really anything,” Ford said. “He liked this old Yogi Berra quote, ‘Predictions are hard, especially about the future.’”

“I don’t necessarily know what the future holds,” Ford continued. “I’m running because I think I would be a valuable person to be the one deciding these cases in Greenbrier and Monroe Counties, and because I care about the subject matter so deeply.”

“I imagine it would be a forever thing if the electorate will have me,” Ford added. “But predictions are hard, especially about the future.”

Elections for all county judges in West Virginia will be held on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, May 14. It is not required for voters to be registered with a political party to vote in judicial elections.

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