When to Appoint a Child’s Attorney in Maryland
In April 2021, I was honored to present for the Maryland State Bar Association’s (MSBA) Best Interest Attorney training. Over 100 family law attorneys, including Steffani Langston, participated in the 6-hour training to become certified to represent children in contested custody cases. We know Steffani will do an amazing job representing children!
The team at the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman is passionate about representing children because the work allows us to represent what is in a child’s best interest in a custody dispute. As Court-Certified Child’s Attorneys, Steffani and I can give a voice to children who otherwise could be taken advantage of, or not properly heard. We serve as their advocates in Court in the hopes that they do not need to come to Court to share their wishes.
In Maryland, three different types of Child’s Attorneys are appointed for specific reasons: Best Interest Attorneys, Child’s Advocate Attorneys, and Child’s Privilege Attorneys. Here is what you need to know about each of these roles.
Best Interest Attorney
A “Best Interest Attorney” represents a child in a custody case. As the name states, their goal is to advocate to the Court what is in the best interest of the child. In this capacity, a Best Interest Attorney will decide on what custody arrangements are best for the child and must tell the Court what the child desires. However, the Court has no obligation to accept the child’s wishes. If the judge believes that the child’s best interest aligns with a different custody arrangement, the judge will make his or her own determination. A Best Interest Attorney can be appointed for children of any age.
Child’s Advocate Attorney
A “Child’s Advocate Attorney” represents a child in a custody case and is bound by what the child wants in terms of custody. A Child’s Advocate’s goal is to help uphold what the child wishes.
Child’s Advocate Attorneys are traditionally appointed for children that are older and are deemed mature enough to make decisions for themselves. The Court will also appoint one if the child’s interests are significantly different from that of the parents
Child’s Privilege Attorney
A “Child’s Privilege Attorney” represents a child to determine whether that child’s privilege with respect to therapy should be asserted or waived for the child custody case. Their goal is to ensure that the privacy of the child is protected in Court unless it is necessary to release such information.
In a custody case, parents cannot force children or children’s therapists to divulge private information from therapy sessions. However, the Court may override this privilege in special circumstances. The Child’s Privilege Attorney helps to determine whether the private information should remain so, or if it is in the child’s best interest that the information be available to the court.
When to Appoint a Child’s Attorney
Pursuant to Maryland Rule 9-205.1, the Court will consider the following factors when determining whether to appoint a Child’s Attorney:
High level of conflict;
Inappropriate adult influence or manipulation;
Past or current child abuse or neglect;
Past or current mental health problems of the child or party;
Special physical, educational, or mental health needs of the child that require investigation or advocacy;
Actual or threatened family violence;
Alcohol or other substance abuse;
Consideration of terminating or suspending parenting time or awarding custody or visitation to a non-parent; and
Relocation that substantially reduces the child's time with a parent, sibling, or both.
A Child’s Attorney may also be appointed if one or both parties request the appointment. The Court may also consider other factors that are relevant when deciding to appoint a Child’s Attorney.
If you have questions about child’s attorneys, please contact Laurie Wasserman at email@example.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman is here to help guide and advocate for you.