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The Pitfalls of Self-Representation in a Maryland Family Law Court Case

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When a family law dispute such as divorce or child custody escalates and there is a possibility of going to court, you may be tempted to handle your case or appeal on your own. This is not highly recommended because it usually ends poorly for everyone involved. There are specific and complex details in the process of child custody and support that even knowledgeable people do not know because it is likely their first time encountering this type of situation. Knowledge of the law, experience with court procedures, and execution of arguments, presentations, and strategies to convince judges and juries are not always found in books or the internet. We had a case of a mother whose appeal document consisted of all too general and inaccurate constitutional claims.

The involvement of the Court of Special Appeals in this case of child custody dispute happened after a long-winded and difficult litigation process. Born in 2014, Jenny is the daughter of parents whose relationship turned sour soon after she was born. Her mother filed a claim for child custody in California. The court, however, concluded that Maryland was the child’s home state and ordered for custody and visitation. June 2015 was when Jenny’s father initiated a visitation discussion, without Jenny’s mother returning his calls. The court modified custody to grant it to Jenny’s father and ordered a child abduction warrant for Jenny’s mother. Finally, after a few months, authorities found Jenny and her mother living in Seattle.

Jenny’s mother’s requests for visitation were several times rejected by the court, unless she underwent a psychological evaluation.

Jenny’s mother filed for an appeal without the guidance of a lawyer. She proceeded to argue, denying Jenny of access to her mother, who acted as the child’s primary caregiver, is unconstitutional and a violation of the child’s 14th Amendment rights as a person. Furthermore, she argued that giving the father sole custody is putting Jenny in a dangerous situation, because she claims that Jenny’s father is not aware and does not take responsibility for his abusive behavior. She used the latter argument to support her claim that it is a violation of Jenny’s 14th Amendment right to live free of abuse.

An order on visitation that keeps one parent from visiting is not very common. There are several ways to deal with this order in court. Arguments used to tackle this order are based on violations of Maryland statutes on custody and visitation or contradiction to already established visitation case law precedent from the Court of Appeals or the Court of Special Appeals. Generally, courts are wary of ruling in favor of appealing parties using constitutional claims and non-specific ones relatively supporting 14th Amendment violation. It should be noted that the 14th Amendment grants each citizen equal protection under the laws, but it does not assure or needlessly guarantee visitation rights or privileges to every parent.

Challenging and difficult custody and visitation cases are best handled with the guidance and support of a family law attorney. A professional lawyer can pick apart a case and identify issues that would not be apparent to someone who does not have experience dealing with the courts and family law. Feel free to call (301) 889-8085 or schedule a consultation online.

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Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

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My experience was very good. Everyone was professional and attentive to my needs, keeping me updated every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better result, highly recommended.

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My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

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