MARYLAND — Maryland lawmakers aim to raise the skill and training standards for custody experts through Senate Bill 13.
Strengthen training, requirements
“It requires minimum qualifications and training for the custody experts involved in custody cases involving allegations of domestic child abuse,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Mary Beth Carozza.
Custody assessors would have to complete an initial 20-hour training session. They would also attend an additional five-hour training session every two years.
Sen. Carozza had previously been appointed to a special task force focused on trials in child custody cases involving allegations of child abuse and domestic violence.
The senator says the task force has spent more than 18 months hearing testimonies from experts, parents and child protection organizations emphasizing the need for this legislation.
“The custody experts who make these recommendations to the judges, there is no uniform qualification or training for these custody experts,” Senator Carozza said. “In over 90% of these cases, the judges rely on the recommendations of the custody experts. So only the minimum qualifications and training for these custody experts are included in my bill.”
Sen. Carozza adds that many other occupations are required by state law to undergo special training. For example, two years ago, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation mandating training and qualifications for animal control officials.
“If you have positions that aren’t related to children and you have that in the law, obviously you have to have the qualifications and training for that position, custody adjudicators who deal with our children in these very traumatic cases,” said Sen. Carozza. “[Parents’] We expect that we will ensure that these custody assessors have these minimum qualifications and the necessary training.”
Senate Bill 13 was previously introduced in the last session of the Maryland General Assembly but did not pass. At the same time, a bill was passed that would impose higher training and requirements on judges in such cases.
“Of course, if you have judges that need that training, then it makes sense that custody assessors would get that same training,” Sen. Carozza said. “We, as members of the Maryland General Assembly, have an obligation to enshrine this in the law.”
Senator Carozza says she and other lawmakers have been working on this bill for three years. It was heard Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill is now entering its second reading.