Breaking [Up] Bad : Maryland Custody Roles, Rules, and Trends

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May 16, 2021 9am-12:15pm

Price: $80 ($70 earlybird discount). APP Members: $55 (or $45 earlybird discount).

“Breaking [Up] Bad” — Maryland Custody Roles, Rules, and Trends in Maryland Courts”

Presented by Neal J. Meiselman, Esq., Nogah B. Helfant, Esq.,

and Vincent M. Wills, Esq.

Meiselman Helfant & Wills, LLC

A CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAM sponsored By Association of Practicing Psychologists, Montgomery-Prince George’s Counties, Inc.
Meets Ethics CEU requirements.

Workshop Level: All levels

Program Description.

Child custody and visitation caselaw, 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?

Learning Objectives:  This workshop is designed to help you:

  1. Under Maryland’s new parenting plan rule, prepare clients engaged in custody and visitation disputes to draft a parenting plan; and identify factors used in developing a parenting plan which might require or benefit from input by mental health practitioners serving the parties and/or the children.
  2. Prepare clients to participate in court-ordered mediation of custody decision-making and parenting time; assist clients in deciding whether to elect parenting coordination; help clients select an appropriate mediator or parent coordinator, when possible; and recognize differences between mediation and parenting coordination under Maryland court rules.
  3. Identify different kinds of assessments available under Maryland custody and visitation-related assessment rule ‒ custody evaluation, home study, mental health evaluation or specific issue evaluation; recognize mandatory and optional elements of a custody evaluation; and assist clients ordered to undergo these assessments.
  4. Recognize criteria used by Maryland courts to determine if an individual is a ‘de facto’ parent, and what remedies are available to someone who qualifies as a ‘de facto’ parent.

About the Presenters:

Neal J. Meiselman, an experienced family lawyer and mediator who has practiced law in Maryland since 1978, is founding partner of Meiselman Helfant & Wills, LLC.  Mr. Meiselman is the author of “12 Commandments for Divorced Parents,” first published by Ann Landers in her nationally syndicated column on January 23, 1994. The Maryland Bar Journal published Mr. Meiselman’s article, “Recession and Divorce,” in January/February 2010.  Reported cases include Noffsinger v. Noffsinger, 95 Md.App. 265 (1993); and Walker v. Grow, 170 Md.App. 255 (2006).

Nogah B. Helfant, has been practicing family law in Maryland for over 20 years.  She has extensive litigation, mediation, and negotiation experience in contested divorce cases, protective orders, high conflict custody cases, modification, and post-divorce enforcement proceedings. Ms. Helfant is frequently appointed by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland to serve as a Child Privilege Attorney or Best Interest Attorney in contested custody cases.  Reported cases include Campitelli v. Johnston, 134 Md. App. 689, 761 A.2d 369 (2000), and Walker v. Grow, 170 Md.App. 255, 907 A.2d 255 (2006).

Vincent M. Wills joined Meiselman Helfant & Wills LLC as a partner in 2018, after 22 years with Dragga, Hannon & Wills, LLP.  Since 1996, his practice has concentrated primarily on family law, and particularly on complex litigation and appellate matters.  Mr. Wills is former Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association.  He has been a frequent lecturer for the Maryland State Bar Association and the Montgomery County Bar Association.  He has co-authored numerous published articles and training materials on topics in family law.

In November 2019, Mr. Meiselman, Ms. Helfant, and Mr. Wills co-presented “Family Law: Focus On Domestic Violence” at the Maryland Psychological Association’s annual meeting.  In March 2020, Mr. Meiselman, Ms. Helfant, and Mr. Wills reprised “Family Law: Focus On Domestic Violence” for Alvord,  Baker & Associates.

 

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