Md. Group Mull’s suggestions for custody circumstances

A Maryland working group that had gathered to investigate child molestation and domestic violence lawsuits reviewed a variety of proposed recommendations Tuesday.

Suggestions include judicial training for judges, data collection and logging of a child’s safety in abuse investigations.

The group, chaired by Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, has not met since January 28 due to the abruptly shortened legislative period in Annapolis and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“As far as I have been told, there are many more cases of domestic violence. There are many more child vulnerabilities that we have dealt with, ”he said. “This [work] is really becoming more important, as we experienced in the COVID-19 era. “

The group of state lawmakers, advocates, and advocates of child and domestic violence received presentations from nationally renowned researchers and scholars to highlight how courts harm children based on decisions with limited knowledge.

One of the 20 draft recommendations discussed whether to limit the fees charged by custodians. Some are made available by the courts, others run a private practice.

A member of the group, Jennifer Shaw, psychologist and co-founder of the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education in Fairfax, Virginia, said it could cost $ 35,000 in that state to keep a custody attorney from a private company would.

In Maryland, the cost could be anywhere from $ 20,000 to $ 40,000 for a person examining and evaluating parents and child involved in a lawsuit.

Laure Ruth, legal director of the Towson Women’s Rights Center, said she understands the expensive cost of hiring a reviewer by the parties, but “there’s a part of me that is uncomfortable with telling therapists, or whoever these private custody reviews performs that they can I’m not getting paid for what they’re supposed to pay. “

Some members said there should be a cap on exorbitant fees.

“If all of the evidence presented by the child’s forensic evaluator and therapist reduces the influence of a custodian because he or she is absent and cannot earn $ 40,000 in these cases, [then] I’m all for it, ”said Camille Cooper, vice president of public order for the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN) in DC. “They have no positive influence on the process.”

Another recommendation for the Maryland courts is that judges must receive at least 20 hours of training prior to handling a custody case involving domestic violence, child abuse, or child sexual abuse.

The judiciary would create a training program that would focus on topics such as child development, the effects of trauma on a child, the effects of child abuse and domestic violence, and understanding the importance of play and art therapy in a child.

State Senator Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican who represents three counties on the east coast, said the use of the word “should” should be replaced with a more subtle word to work with court officials.

“Each of our recommendations … is to show an appreciation that the judges depend on those recommendations,” she said. “We want our recommendations to be a helpful tool in this process.”

Additional draft recommendations will be highlighted on the General Assembly’s website.

The group plans to meet again on July 28th. Once the recommendations are finalized, the next step is to prepare legislative proposals for the upcoming General Assembly, due to meet in January.

It’s unclear whether lawmakers would meet, especially in the coronavirus crisis.

Hope M. Wylie, who uses a false name to protect her identity following an abusive relationship, appreciated what she heard on Tuesday.

“I have to say that they addressed some important issues like custody assessment, legal training, primary parent discrimination who are physically abused, etc.,” Wylie said in an email. “I’m encouraged where you got off and look forward to reading your recommendations when they’re finalized.”

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