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When a Child Needs Representation, Too

Sometimes divorcing parents cannot come to agreement over custody of their minor children.  If mediation, negotiation or some other type of alternative dispute resolution has failed, parents end up in court. In these situations in Maryland, the court can appoint an attorney to represent the child.

In January 2007, the Court of Appeals of Maryland changed the laws regarding a guardian appointed to defend the children’s best interests, known as the guardian ad lite. These court-appointed lawyers have no duty to the parents, but represent only the interests of the minor children in contentious custody cases, particularly those involving abuse, neglect, juvenile delinquency and dependency. The court considers many factors when deciding to appoint a guardian, including the nature of the evidence that might be presented in the case, other methods of securing information such as social service investigations and mental health evaluations, as well as the resources for payment.

Maryland law now has three types of lawyers representing children instead of just one guardian ad litem.

  • A child’s best interest attorney (BIA) does not testify in court, but visits the child, makes an independent assessment of the situation and then makes a recommendation to the court. The attorney is not bound by the child’s directives or objectives.
  • A child’s advocate attorney (CAA) serves as the child’s voice in court, informing the court about the child’s wishes and requests, while ensuring the child is informed and understands the process.
  • A child’s privilege attorney (CPA) meets with the child and makes an assessment. The CPA may waive or assert certain privileges on the child’s behalf, as their parent, as a litigant, cannot do so.

All three types of guardian ad litem are allowed to participate in discovery and other civil procedures on the child’s behalf. The attorneys at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC understand the sensitive issues underlying child custody disputes and work to produce the best outcomes for you and your family.

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