Regarding the Sept. 29 editorial “A child’s safety is paramount”:
Most people don’t know that a concerned parent can be treated with suspicion by Maryland authorities, even when gravely troubling behaviors appear in a child placed under the care of a sex offender. Even fewer know that in such a case the sex offender, not the child, has the advantage in court because of a widespread assumption that any parent is better than no parent.
As the editorial noted, a bill that would deny custody and unsupervised visitation to sex offenders in Maryland died this year before the House Judiciary Committee. However, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed a bill establishing a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making. Good news for children, right? Not so fast. A small percentage of legal separation and divorce cases goes to litigation, but a high percentage of those cases involves a history of domestic violence, child abuse or both. The advocates who pushed for the commission see joint parental custody as its main task. Such a predispostion puts a goal of shared parenting ahead of child safety, the goal held by current case law.
Maryland judges continue to order unsupervised access or joint custody despite histories of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect. If it is so difficult to protect a child from a convicted sex offender, what hope do children have when a parent is abusive or dangerous but has never been convicted?
Eileen King, Washington
The writer is executive director of Child Justice.