In legal cases concerning issues about access to a child, Maryland courts might assign a best interest attorney to the minor. Best interest attorneys have specific duties that are designed to advocate what most advantageous for the child's well-being.
A best interest attorney, which replaces the term guardian ad litem, is appointed by the court to advocate on a child's behalf. The court expects these advocates to be impartial toward both parents, showing concern only for the child's well-being. While a best interest attorney does represent the child's welfare, the individual works under the auspices of the court. Therefore, in some situations, this type of legal advocate may be compelled to reveal confidential details to the court.
Best interest attorneys are expected to ascertain whether a child can make an informed judgment about the situation. The attorney may conduct various interviews with family members, medical professionals, education facilities or any individual and agency that participate in the child's development. The attorney may investigate any situation of concern and return those findings to the court. The attorney may also be included in any negotiations concerning the child and counsel the child about the pertinent legal process. While a best interest attorney may represent a child in court, the attorney may not be a testimonial witness.
An individual dealing with a family law matter in Maryland that involves access to children issues would benefit from legal counsel. If a legal matter arises where a child's best interest is at risk, a family law attorney might be able to advise a parent through the proceedings.
Source: MARYAND JUDICIAL CONFERENCE COMMITTEE ON FAMILY LAW CUSTODY SUBCOMMITTEE , "MARYLAND STANDARDS OF PRACTICE FOR COURT-APPOINTED LAWYERS REPRESENTING CHILDREN IN CUSTODY CASES ", November 06, 2014