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In 2014, a judge in Talbot County, Maryland, gave custody of a 14 year old girl to Mrs. Hostetter, writing in his memorandum opinion that as “an adolescent female, this may be the most important time in her life to have a solid relationship with her mother.”

What’s wrong with this decision? It ignores father’s rights.

Father’s Rights Matter

While the judge may have been correct about the importance of the mother-daughter relationship, he was wrong about the law.

In an unreported opinion in March of 2105, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the decision as contrary to state law and cases.

In 1974, Maryland abandoned by statute the maternal preference doctrine, under which father’s rights were ignored and children were presumed to belong with their mother.

And in 1998, the Maryland Court of Appeals, held that the state’s Equal Rights Amendment prohibits custody determinations based on gender.

The Maryland legislature is currently considering a bill that would create a rebuttable presumption in favor of joint physical custody.  Sponsors of the bill say such a presumption is necessary to prevent a latent preference by judges to award custody to mothers rather than fathers.

This would be an important recognition of father’s rights.

Should gender play a role in deciding to hire a divorce attorney?  If you are a woman, do you want a male or female attorney and vice versa?  Does it make a difference if the judge in your case is male or female?

I like to have both in my law firm because I do believe men and women think differently.  As one women lawyer told me, men think like a ladder, women think like a wheel.  When you get different perspectives on problems, that can lead to better  solutions.

Today, women make up 50% of law school classes.  There were only five women in my law school class of 200.  Of those five, one became the chief judge of the highest court in the state and another became secretary of the state.

I remember a female attorney and I were in a meeting with a prospective female client once.  I am usually pretty laid back.  I try not to make promises I can’t keep.  I prefer to underpromise and overperform.  That way I can be the hero if the case happens to go my way.  The women attorney, however, was full of energy.  She was shocked that the woman’s husband treated her badly and she promised to hit him where it hurts (his wallet).  Naturally, after the meeting, the client said, “I want her to be my lawyer.”

To answer my first question, I think it is more important to get a good lawyer than a lawyer of a specific gender.  By good lawyer, I mean one who can attack their work for your case, meet deadlines, and return your calls.  Some good lawyers are men and some are women.