If you are involved in a custody dispute, there will be several steps to the legal process. One of these may involve a custody evaluation. It is important to understand exactly what a custody evaluation does, and does not, mean for your case. Even if the determinations made by the custody evaluator are not favorable to your position, you should not give up hope, as Maryland law makes it clear that the judge in your case will be the one to decide the dispute and the judge is not bound to follow the recommendations made by a custody evaluator. Whether or not your case has a custody evaluation, your case should have a skilled Maryland family law attorney on your side advocating for your interests.
One case involving a custody evaluation was the dispute between C.O. and L.N.O. The pair was initially involved in a very long-distance relationship. When they married in 1997, he lived in Maryland and she lived in Vietnam. The wife moved to Ellicott City in 1998 and the couple resided there for 18 years, until their separation.
After litigation, the trial judge awarded primary physical custody to the father, and gave the mother visitation on every other weekend. The mother appealed this ruling, arguing that the trial judge’s custody arrangement improperly went against the sort of custody split that the custody evaluator had recommended.
The father won the appeals case, meaning that the custody arrangement established by the trial judge remained in place. In making its ruling, the appeals court noted that the trial court’s decision actually did not run contrary to the evaluator’s suggestions. The evaluator recommended that the couple’s two children reside with the father during the week while they were in school and that the father also get some weekend time with the children, especially given the extent to which the children’s school-related activities dominated their time (including after-school time) during the week.
Additionally – and this is an important piece of information of which any parent involved in custody litigation should take note — trial court judges are not required by the law to follow the recommendations made by custody evaluators. Custody evaluators’ recommendations are suggestions to the court and the court takes those recommendations and weighs them just like any other piece of evidence. Deviating from what the custody evaluator recommends is not, in and of itself, a legal error that can trigger an automatic reversal of the trial judge’s decision.
Another important piece of knowledge that was conveyed by this ruling relates to temporary custody arrangements. If you have a temporary custody arrangement, the court is not bound by that arrangement in creating the permanent custody arrangement, even if the temporary arrangement was successful. This means that the trial judge is not obliged to follow the temporary plan and is not required to give an explanation for a deviation from that temporary plan in the permanent custody arrangement.
For the knowledge and skill you need to get positive results in your family law case, contact experienced Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
What Is a ‘Consent Custody Order’ and What Role Does It Play in a Custody Case in Maryland?, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 29, 2018
Maryland Court of Special Appeals Revives an Immigrant Father’s Case Seeking Sole Custody of His Two Minor Children, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 15, 2018