Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attorney Dondi West Answers a Custody Question on Avvo

Question:  if my daughters father has not been in her life for over 8 years and she doesnt want to see him will she be forced too see him: my daughter doesnt really know her father and i say that because after 7 years I SEARCHED HIM OUT and tried to let her meet him that didnt go to well she feels nervous and doesnt really like him although i try and keep the line open for her to call she just doesnt want to is it right for him to demand to see her if she doesnt want to see him??? I want the best for her but I dont not want a child forced into doing something that makes them uncomfortable and all he talks about is his rights and not hers??

Attorney Dondi West's Answer: In Maryland, custody and visitation issues are determined by considering what is in the best interest of the child. This best interest of the child standard is based on several factors. One of those factors is the reasonable preference of a child of suitable age and discretion. In other words, if the child is mature enough to articulate a reasonable preference, then the court will consider this amongst the many factors. An emphasis should be placed on reasonable. Wanting to go with one parent because the parents buys a lot of pizza and video games is not a good enough reason. The child's belief must be reasonable. Also, a Court may appoint an attorney as a "child advocate" to represent the minor child or appoint an attorney who shall serve as a "best interest" attorney to represent the minor child, and impose the costs of such appointed counsel against either or both parents.

But the child's opinion is just one of many factors. Ultimately, a court's primary concern is the safety, well-being, and future development of the child. Courts will generally find that it is in the best interest of the child for both parents to have at least some role in the child's life. In your case (and I don't know all the facts) it might be possible to start out with some type of phased visitation arrangement that slowly introduces the father back in her life, coupled with therapy to help the child deal with what would be a tough transition. I hope this helps!

Note: This answer is for information purposes only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice. You should contact an attorney to discuss your particular legal situation.

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