Representing Children in Custody and Divorce Cases
In some contested family law cases, a child’s interests are entirely separate from their parents’, meaning that child may require their own advocate in court. When this need becomes apparent, under Maryland law, it’s common practice to appoint a child representation attorney who stands in for or provides counsel to the child as the case unfolds.
At Z Family Law, our children’s counsel lawyers are well-versed in not only representing children during high-conflict custody and divorce cases, but in fighting for their best interests at all times. Our seasoned attorneys meet the Maryland Child Appointment Qualifications and have a proven track record of success solving contentious family law cases, serving as both the trusted advisors and staunch advocates every child’s needs demand.
Types of Child Representation
In Maryland, three types of lawyers may represent children in high-conflict and contested custody disputes:
Child Privilege Attorney
Since the law allows children to keep certain information private — such as discussions with social workers or psychiatrists, for instance — a Child Privilege Attorney determines whether or not this information should be released to the court.
Best Interest Attorney
After conducting an independent investigation into the child’s case, a Best Interest Attorney advocates for what they believe to be in the best interest of the child, which may not necessarily be representative of the child’s wishes. Best Interest Attorneys can share confidential information that would normally be protected under attorney-client privilege with the court if deemed necessary.
Almost exclusively appointed for older, more mature children, Child Advocates treat each of their minor clients the same way they would treat an adult.
Child Representation, by Law
Maryland Rule 9-205.1 dictates when the court should appoint counsel for a child as well as what type of lawyer should be assigned. This statute requires that the court consider alternatives to appointing child representation, particularly taking into account the evidence that will be presented and available payment sources. Under this law, the following factors, allegations, or concerns may deem the appointment of a child attorney appropriate or necessary:
- The request of one or both parties
- A high level of conflict
- Inappropriate adult influence or manipulation
- Past or current child abuse/neglect
- Mental health problems of the child/involved parties — past or present
- Special physical, educational, or mental health needs of the child that mandate investigation or advocacy
- Actual or threatened family violence
- Substance abuse
- Deliberation over the possibility of terminating/suspending parenting time or awarding custody/visitation to a non-parent
- Relocation that substantially reduces the child’s time with a parent, sibling, or both
- Any additional factor the court considers relevant
Finding the Right Child Representation Attorney for You
As you navigate this challenging time, a trusted legal team who who can safeguard your child's best interests is essential. After all, when it comes to your children's safety and wellbeing, the importance of finding strategic and compassionate counsel focused solely on family law cannot be understated. By combining our vast legal experience, our tenured team can design a tailored strategy that puts your child’s needs first.