What is the court looking for in my Maryland child custody case?

Many parents who are going through the divorce process often wonder how child custody decisions are determined. Perhaps the easiest explanation is that Maryland courts will always consider custody issues in light of the best interests of the children involved. In other words, Maryland courts are reluctant to do anything that might directly or indirectly imperil a child or prevent that child from experiencing the most favorable outcome.

Back in April 2009, Maryland courts initiated a study aimed at discovering how courts were handling child custody matters throughout the state. Arguably, one of the central findings in that study was that Maryland judges often faced issues regarding the admissibility and weight of certain evidence. At issue in many of these disputes over evidence was whether the facts presented by experts were reliable or even relevant to the cases at hand.

The study also revealed that many child custody experts attempt to obtain specialized training in order to avoid these evidentiary disputes. In other words, Maryland courts may be more likely to admit evidence that is offered by an expert in specialized fields such as child neglect, substance abuse or evaluation procedures.

Numbers from a 2008 survey of Maryland courts may also shed some light on what courts are really looking for in child custody disputes. Out of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, 66 percent of them participated in that survey. Surprisingly, there was a strong disparity between the expectations of court personnel and actual practitioners in the use of psychological testing in child custody evaluations. Only 43 percent of court personnel expected practitioners to perform psychological testing. Whereas 100 percent of practitioners expect to perform psychological testing as part of their custody evaluations.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the findings related to what Maryland courts look for in child custody disputes. It is important to remember that most Maryland family law attorneys have experience in knowing the court’s expectations during custody disputes. Their unique knowledge of using expert opinions and the legal process regarding the presentation of those opinions in court can be crucial to determining the outcome of your case.

Source: University of Baltimore School of Law-Maryland Administrative Offices of the Courts, “Child custody evaluations” accessed Feb. 17, 2015