Child’s Attorney, The Best Interest Attorney:
A lawyer who is usually appointed by the court to act in the best interest of the child, sometimes to even “speak for the child.”
In Frederick County Maryland, custody and divorce lawyers may request that the child(ren) be appointed their own lawyer. This is true in all Maryland family law courts.
What is a child’s attorney?
A child’s attorney was formerly called a “guardian ad litem” and there was no special training or credentials except that it be a lawyer acceptable to the court.
Today, the Maryland Rules dictate the requirements of an attorney to qualify as a child’s attorney. Those Rules further acknowledge the different types of “child’s attorneys” and the respective obligations of those lawyers. Not all cases will involve a child’s attorney.
In fact, only a small percentage of custody and divorce cases are truly and fully “contested.” An even smaller percentage of those involve a child(ren)’s attorney. There are several reasons for that. First, money is an issue. Frederick divorce and custody lawyers cost money. If you have a children’s attorney, you are paying for your attorney and the child’s attorney.
Okay, sometimes you may pay ½ or a greater/lesser percentage than the other parent. Also, in some cases, the court may pay some or all of the fee for the child’s attorney, but not often! If you request a children’s attorney be prepared to pay.
Second, control is an issue. Speaking as a Frederick custody and divorce lawyer, the employment/appointment of a child’s attorney always carries a modicum of risk. You may be winning a case and if there is a new attorney placed in the mix, that can all change. It can also have the opposite effect.
A parent can move from zero to hero when a child’s attorney gets in the mix. Personally, with some significant exceptions, I don’t want a child’s attorney if my case is going well without one.
Many years ago I was aware of a case where the father resided in Frederick and he was a law enforcement officer. He was a fine father by every estimation.
He also thought likewise for the mother who lived in Hagerstown. They were parents of a 5 year old boy. Mother would routinely ask father to vet babysitters and he would happily comply. The mother became engaged and that all changed.
She met a man at church who was the “youth pastor” and she expected to marry him. Father met the man with no qualms whatsoever. But when he looked into the man’s history, he uncovered that the man was a twice convicted pedophile with a penchant for boys of this son’s age.
The court appointed a best interest attorney who did a thorough enough job visiting the parties’ households and visiting with the child both in Hagerstown and in Frederick. The attorney in question wore her colors as a liberal on her sleeve and I have no problem with that.
When the case went to trial the Judge (now retired) asked the Best Interest Attorney to recommend placement for the Child. The Attorney indicated that she was concerned Father was exposing the child to “age inappropriate material.”
She went on to indicate she was concerned that the boy kept several toy guns at father’s house which he described as “his gun collection.”
She was also disturbed that the father had permitted the child to watch an R rated movie, namely, Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot.”
She recommended that the child reside with mother and her new husband whom she thought presented little danger to the child. Days of court followed including a Psychologist.
The Psychologist testified that the fiance was a loose cannon and that meeting him as a “youth pastor” was a HUGE red flag and clear evidence that he remained a sexual predator, just waiting to get his chance.
When the case ended the judge adopted the recommendations of best interest attorney. The boy was serially raped for 5 years until the mother husband raped a playmate of the son for which he was charged and convicted.
When we call upon the court to decide a custody case we take our chances that a judge has some predilection, some history after all, he/she is human.
When we start piling more and more people into the issues we stand a greater and greater risk of human error and that is why I believe best interest attorneys should be a last resort.
Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place
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