The Guardian Ad Litem’s Role in Maryland Custody Cases
When parents cannot reach a custody agreement, the family court may appoint an attorney known as a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent a child’s best interests. In Maryland, a high level of conflict or undue adult influence is sufficient reason for the child to require his or her own counsel. The parents’ and child’s mental health problems can factor in, as well as any history of alcohol or drug abuse. GALs may also be commissioned when a parent is relocating and the child’s time with one parent is significantly reduced. One or both of the parents can request the appointment of a GAL. However, the GAL has no duty to the parents.
Under Rule 9-205.1 of Maryland law, one of three different guardian ad litem may be appointed depending on the circumstances:
- Child’s Best Interest Attorney (BIA) — The BIA meets with the child, makes an independent assessment of the situation, and then delivers a recommendation to the court without testifying. The BIA is not required to take the child’s directives or objectives into consideration.
- Child’s Advocate Attorney (CAA) — The CAA informs the court of the child’s wishes and ensures that the child is informed and understands the legal process.
- Child’s Privilege Attorney (CPA) — The CPA meets the child and makes an assessment, and then waives or asserts certain privileges on the child’s behalf. The parents cannot do so, as they are litigants.
To determine which GAL to appoint, the court reviews the nature of the evidence to be presented and considers other methods that could be used to obtain information. These can include investigations by social services or evaluations by mental health professionals.
If the court appoints a legal representative for your children, it is critical that the GAL receive a fair and balanced view of your side. Consult a family law attorney in La Plata for guidance and support throughout your custody battle, and to ensure the best outcome for you and your kids.