The divorce process can be very stressful for the children. Both parents may be very well-meaning and believe they have their child’s best interest at heart; yet, they nevertheless often present conflicting proposals for child custody and access. How can the children be heard? How can their interests be represented and protected?
Under Maryland procedures, the court can appoint a “best interest attorney.” There must of course be a court order appointing the lawyer to represent the children. A best interest attorney is a court-appointed lawyer who provides independent legal services for the purpose of protecting the child’s best interest. That lawyer however is not bound by the child’s directives or objectives. This attorney is not a witness; he functions as the attorney for the child. He can conduct discovery, call witnesses, and advocate in court for the child client’s best interest.
The child’s counsel is compensated for his services, and the costs are normally shared by both parents. A best interest attorney can be a valuable resource for the child by truly attempting to advocate for what is genuinely in the best interest of the child. The child’s attorney does not have his own personal goals or motivations which may influence his judgment for his child client.
There are a few unusual issues where an attorney is appointed to represent the child. The child necessarily lives with and is susceptible to being influenced by the parents. For that reason, it is important that both parents respect the attorney-client role that the child attorney has with his client. The lawyers for the parents should not speak to the child without the permission of the child’s attorney. The parents should not coach the child or in any way interfere with the child’s ability to communicate fully and honestly with his appointed attorney. The parents should respect the confidentiality of conversations between the child and the attorney. Telephone conversations between the attorney and the child should not be monitored, and the child should not be quizzed about what the child might have told his attorney.
Generally, the court does not hear testimony from the child and is not particularly interested in what the young minor child wants. Rather, the judge attempts to decide what is in the best interest of the child in the judge’s opinion. A best interest attorney appointed to represent the child can effectively present his interests in court.
For more information on a best interest lawyer or child custody in general, contact divorce lawyers in Baltimore County at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. Call 443-589-0150 or fill out the online contact form to schedule your free consultation today.