Child Custody Law in Maryland
The best custody arrangement depends on your family’s unique needs. Under Maryland law, custody and visitation determinations are child-focused and use the “best interests of the child” standard.
There are two components of custody in Maryland – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody confers decision-making authority involving important and long-term matters such as religion, discipline, and education. Physical custody involves where the child sleeps and spends time, and includes decision-making authority for everyday needs.
Depending on the circumstances of the case and what is in the best interests of the child, courts can award and combine these two types of custody in a variety of ways. For example, parents can have joint legal custody and shared physical custody, one parent can have sole legal custody but share physical custody with the other parent, one parent can be awarded sole legal and physical custody, and so on.
Factors Court Considers in Determining Custody
The court takes into account numerous factors when deciding custody and visitation arrangements, including;
- Ability of each parent to meet child’s needs
- Length of time child has been separated from parent
- Character of the parents
- Mental and physical fitness of the parents
- Ability of parents to communicate with each other
- History of any abuse
- Parents’ financial and housing stability
Joint or Shared Custody
Shared custody arrangements can help children retain a close, loving relationship with both parents.
Maryland courts recognize the potential benefits of joint custody, but also that it may not be advisable in some situations. The Court evaluates several factors to determine if joint custody is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. The most important factor is the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare.
Parenting Plan Requirements
If parents will have shared custody, they must create a Parenting Agreement that addresses the logistical issues of raising their children. The goal is to minimize interruptions in a child’s life and reduce miscommunication between parents. Parenting plans must address issues such as;
- Transportation arrangements
- Schedule for other types of access, like phone and video calls
- Pick-up and drop-off dates and times
- Arrangements for child’s extracurricular activities
- Reliable schedule for days and nights spent with each parent
Mental Health Considerations
No one can love your kids as much as you, but in the case of a custody battle, love is not all you need. Bring your children’s teachers, principal and any support staff at their school into the loop on what’s happening at home. If your children are very young, consider tapping the help of a play therapist. If they are older, offer— but don’t force— counseling. Even if your kids aren’t interested or willing to give counseling a try, expert guidance from child therapists can be helpful for giving you guidance on how to best support them.
Having the Divorce or Separation Talk with children is never easy, regardless of their ages. Overall, remember that all kids need reassurance that they did not cause your divorce and that they will still have two parents who will love them always.
Finding the right attorney
While your children will likely (and ideally) never meet your attorney hiring the right attorney is hands down the number one most important factor when facing a custody battle. Every custody battle has unique aspects, and having an attorney that understands the facets that will complicate yours— be it substance abuse, infidelity, bankruptcy, or anger management— is essential.