RULE 9-205.3. CUSTODY AND VISITATION-RELATED ASSESSMENTS
West's Annotated Code of MarylandMaryland Rules
MD Rules, Rule 9-205.3
RULE 9-205.3. CUSTODY AND VISITATION-RELATED ASSESSMENTS
Committee note: In this Rule, when an assessor is selected by the court, the term “appointment” is used. When the assessor is selected by the parties and the selection is incorporated into a court order, the term “approval” is used.
Committee note: An example of a specific issue evaluation is an evaluation of a party as to whom the issue of a problem with alcohol consumption has been raised, performed by an individual with expertise in alcoholism.
(2) The court may appoint or approve any person deemed competent by the court to perform a home study or a specific issue evaluation. The court may not appoint or approve a person to perform a custody evaluation unless (A) the assessor has the qualifications set forth in subsections (d)(1) and (d)(2) of this Rule, or (B) the qualifications have been waived for the assessor pursuant to subsection (d)(3) of this Rule.
(E) (i) a Maryland licensed graduate or master social worker with at least two years of experience in (a) one or more of the areas listed in subsection (d)(2) of this Rule, (b) performing custody evaluations, or (c) any combination of subsections (a) and (b); or (ii) a graduate or master social worker with an equivalent level of licensure and experience in any other state; or
(3) Waiver of Requirements. If a court employee has been performing custody evaluations on a regular basis as an employee of, or under contract with, the court for at least five years prior to January 1, 2016, the court may waive any of the requirements set forth in subsection (d)(1) of this Rule, provided that the individual participates in at least 20 hours per year of continuing education relevant to the performance of custody evaluations, including course work in one or more of the areas listed in subsection (d)(2) of this Rule.
(1) Custody Evaluator Lists. If the circuit court for a county appoints custody evaluators who are not court employees, the family support services coordinator for the court shall maintain a list of qualified custody evaluators. An individual, other than a court employee, who seeks appointment by a circuit court as a custody evaluator shall submit an application to the family support services coordinator for that court. If the applicant has the qualifications set forth in section (d) of this Rule, the applicant's name shall be placed on a list of qualified individuals. The family support services coordinator, upon request, shall make the list and the information submitted by each individual on the list available to the public.
(A) By the Parties. By agreement, the parties may employ a custody evaluator of their own choosing who may, but need not, be on the court's list. The parties may, but need not, request the court to enter a consent order approving the agreement and selection. The court shall enter the order if one is requested and the court finds that the custody evaluator has the qualifications set forth in section (d) and that the agreement contains the relevant information set forth in section (g) of this Rule.
(B) By the Court. An appointment of an individual, other than a court employee, as a custody evaluator by the court shall be made from the list maintained by the family support services coordinator. In appointing a custody evaluator from a list, the court is not required to choose at random or in any particular order from among the qualified evaluators on the list. The court should endeavor to use the services of as many qualified individuals as practicable, but the court may consider, in light of the issues and circumstances presented by the action or the parties, any special training, background, experience, expertise, or temperament of the available prospective appointees. An individual appointed by the court to serve as a custody evaluator shall have the qualifications set forth in section (d) of this Rule.
(3) Optional Elements Requiring Court Approval. The custody evaluator may not include an optional element listed in subsection (f)(2)(E), (F), or (G) if any additional cost is to be assessed for the element unless, after notice to the parties and an opportunity to object, the court approved inclusion of the element.
(2) if there are allegations of domestic violence committed by or against a party or child, any provisions the court deems necessary to address the safety and protection of the parties, all children of the parties, any other children residing in the home of a party, and the person being appointed or approved;
(A) Oral Report on the Record. If the court orders a pretrial or settlement conference to be held at least 45 days before the scheduled trial date or hearing at which the evaluation may be offered or considered, and the order appointing or approving the custody evaluator does not require a written report, the custody evaluator may present the custody evaluation report orally to the parties on the record at the conference. The custody evaluator shall produce and provide to the court and parties at the conference a written list containing an adequate description of all documents reviewed in connection with the custody evaluation. If custody and access are not resolved at the conference, and no written report has been provided, the court shall (i) provide a transcript of the oral report to the parties free of charge, or (ii) direct the custody evaluator to prepare a written report and furnish it to the parties in accordance with subsection (i)(1)(B) of this Rule. Absent the consent of the parties, the judge or magistrate who presides over a settlement conference at which an oral report is presented shall not preside over a hearing or trial on the merits of the custody dispute.
(B) Written Report Prepared by the Custody Evaluator. If an oral report is not prepared and presented pursuant to subsection (i)(1)(A) of this Rule, the custody evaluator shall prepare a written report of the custody evaluation and shall include in the report a list containing an adequate description of all documents reviewed in connection with the custody evaluation. The report shall be furnished to the parties at least 30 days before the scheduled trial date or hearing at which the evaluation may be offered or considered. The court may shorten or extend the time for good cause shown but the report shall be furnished to the parties no later than 15 days before the scheduled trial or hearing.
(2) Report of Home Study or Specific Issue Evaluation. Unless preparation of a written report is waived by the parties, an assessor who performed a home study or a specific issue evaluation shall prepare a written report of the assessment and furnish it to the parties. The report shall be furnished as soon as practicable after completion of the assessment and, if a date is specified in the order of appointment or approval, by that date.
(3) Report of Mental Health Evaluation. An assessor who performed a mental health evaluation shall prepare a written report and make it available to the parties solely for use in the case. The report shall be made available as soon as practicable after completion of the evaluation and, if a date is specified in the order of appointment or approval, by that date.
(j) Copying and Dissemination of Report. A party may copy a written report of an assessment or the transcript of an oral report prepared pursuant to subsection (i)(1)(A) of this Rule but, except as permitted by the court, shall not disseminate the report or transcript other than to individuals intended to be called as experts by the party.
Cross reference: See subsection (g)(6) of this Rule concerning the inclusion of restrictions on copying and distribution of reports in an order of appointment or approval of an assessor. See the Rules in Title 15, Chapter 200, concerning proceedings for contempt of court for violation of a court order.
(2) Deposition of Court-Paid Assessor. Unless leave of court is obtained, any deposition of an assessor who is a court employee or is working under contract for the court and paid by the court shall: (A) be held at the courthouse where the action is pending or other court-approved location; (B) take place after the date on which an oral or written report is presented to the parties; and (C) not exceed two hours, with the time to be divided equally between the parties.
(2) Admission of Report Into Evidence Without Presence of Assessor. The court may admit an assessor's report into evidence without the presence of the assessor, subject to objections based other than on the presence or absence of the assessor. If the assessor is present, a party may call the assessor for cross-examination.
Committee note: The admissibility of an assessor's report pursuant to subsection (m)(2) of this Rule does not preclude the court or a party from calling the assessor to testify as a witness at a hearing or trial.
(2) Fee Schedules. Subject to the approval of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, the county administrative judge of each circuit court shall develop and adopt maximum fee schedules for custody evaluations. In developing the fee schedules, the county administrative judge shall take into account the availability of qualified individuals willing to provide custody evaluation services and the ability of litigants to pay for those services. A custody evaluator appointed by the court may not charge or accept a fee for custody evaluation services in that action in excess of the fee allowed by the applicable schedule. Violation of this subsection shall be cause for removal of the individual from all lists maintained pursuant to subsection (e)(1) of this Rule.
(3) Allocation of Fees and Expenses. As permitted by law, the court may order the parties or a party to pay the reasonable and necessary fees and expenses incurred by an individual appointed by the court to perform an assessment in the case. The court may fairly allocate the reasonable and necessary fees of the assessment between or among the parties. In the event of the removal or resignation of an assessor, the court may consider the extent to which any fees already paid to the assessor should be returned.
Source: This Rule is new.
[Adopted Sept. 17, 2015, eff. Jan. 1, 2016; June 20, 2017, eff. Aug. 1, 2017.]
The June 20, 2017 order, in (d) added two categories of professionals to the list of individuals qualified to be custody evaluators.
MD Rules, Rule 9-205.3, MD R FAM LAW ACT Rule 9-205.3
Current with amendments received through September 15, 2018.
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