May 16: MHW presents “Breaking [Up] Bad: Custody Roles, Rules and Trends” for mental health professionals

This program, on May 16, 2021, from 9 am to 12:15 pm, is sponsored by the Association of Practicing Psychologists, Montgomery-Prince George’s Counties, Inc. For registration information, go to APPonline.org.

Child custody and visitation case law, rules and procedures in Maryland courts have seen some dramatic changes in recent years, and continue to evolve. Mental health care providers offer critical services ‒ both directly and indirectly ‒ in facilitating resolution of custody and visitation-related matters.

A new court rule, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, requires parents engaged in custody and visitation disputes to attempt to draft a comprehensive joint parenting plan. What is the process for developing the parenting plan? What must be covered under the plan? The new rule lists 16 factors parties may consider in developing the plan. Which of these factors might require or benefit from input by clinicians serving the parties and/or the child? What happens if the parties do not reach agreement?

Maryland courts have ordered parties to mediate custody and visitation-related matters for many years. When will the court appoint a mediator? How much mediation can the court order? What if the parties want more? Is mediation always confidential? What, if any, exceptions are there? Can a mediator be called to testify in court? What is the role of the mediator? Who is eligible to be a court-appointed mediator? Are there any special eligibility requirements for custody mediators? Can parties pick their own mediator?

Parents can also engage with a parent coordinator. What’s the difference between a parent coordinator and a mediator? When can the court appoint a parent coordinator? Is parent coordination confidential? What, if any, exceptions are there? What is the role of the parent coordinator? The Maryland parent coordinator rule lists 9 services a parent coordinator can provide. Which of these services might benefit from having a parent coordinator who is also a mental health care provider? Which of these services would you be reluctant to provide? What, if any, services are prohibited? Can a parent coordinator be called to testify in court? Who is eligible to be a court-appointed parent coordinator? Can parties pick their own parent coordinator?

Mental health care providers are appointed to conduct any of various assessments ‒ custody evaluations, home studies, mental health evaluations and “specific issue evaluations” ‒ under Maryland’s court rules. Who is qualified to perform each of these assessments? How do these qualifications compare to those for a mediator or parent coordinator? What are the mandatory and optional elements of a custody evaluation? How and when does a custody evaluator report? Who gets to see the assessor’s report? Can a custody evaluator or assessor be deposed or compelled to produce documents? Does a custody evaluator or assessor have to testify in court?

In July 2016, Maryland’s highest court recognized the rights of a ‘de facto’ parent (also called a psychological parent) to sue for custody and visitation. What are the four criteria which must be met to establish ‘de facto’ parent status? Which of these criteria might require or benefit from observations or input by mental health care practitioners serving the parties and/or the child? How many parents and ‘de facto’ parents can a child have? Can they all sue for custody and visitation?

Don’t miss this informative program! Register here: APPonline.org.