Discretionary appointment of counsel

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Legislation, Custody Disputes - Children

In a case with contested issues of child custody, visitation rights, or support, the court has discretion to appoint independent counsel for a child who is the subject of the case. Md. Code. Fam. Law § 1-202.  The statute permits appointment of either "a lawyer who shall serve as a child advocate attorney" or "a lawyer who shall serve as a best interest attorney." Id. at (a)(1).  Attorneys fees may be imposed against one or more parties to the action. Id. at (a)(2). 


Under Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 9-205.1(c)(1)(A), the court order appointing counsel should specify the attorney's role.


One of the Maryland rules provides parameters on what the court should consider in deciding whether to appoint counsel. MD. R. 9-205.1(b).  There are eleven factors for the court to consider including the level of conflict, whether a request for appointment was made by one or both parties, whether there are concerns about inappropriate adult influence or manipulation, past or current child abuse or neglect, special needs, actual or threatened family violence, alcohol or other substance abuse, and whether the court is considering terminating or suspending parenting time or awarding custody or visitation to a non-parent.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no