In Maryland, the law determines who gets custody of a child after a separation or divorce. There are many factors that are taken into account when making this determination, including the best interests of the child.
In cases where both parents want custody, joint custody is usually awarded. The process for getting a custody order can be complicated, and it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side.
General Maryland Child Custody Info
Maryland law presumes that both natural parents are the natural custodians of their children. The law does not favor either the mother or father.
Either of the separated parents may petition a circuit court in Maryland for custody of a child. If the parties cannot agree about who should have custody, the court will grant custody either solely to one of the parents or shared between parents.
The law looks at the “best interests” of the child standard when deciding on child custody and visitation. The “best interests” of the child standard look at certain factors to determine what is best for the child or children. All court-ordered custody has two components, legal and physical.
Grandparents and others may seek custody, but the presumption in favor of the natural parents can make it difficult.
Custody and visitation arrangements are never permanent. As situations change, a parent can always petition the Court to modify a Court order.
What’s the difference between legal and physical custody?
Parties with legal custody (decision-making authority) make long-term decisions about education, health, religion, care, welfare and other important areas. Physical custody (child access/visitation) refers to where children live and how much time they spend with each parent.
Joint Custody Agreements
Parents can agree on some combination of shared physical and joint legal custody. One example of this is when there is one residence for the child, and the parents live with the child there on a rotating basis. The court looks very closely at Joint Custody agreements.
The most important factor to Joint Legal Custody and Shared Physical Custody is the ability of the parents to talk about and reach joint decisions that affect the child’s welfare. If parents are constantly fighting over religion or school, the court may strike down their agreement.
Additionally, the sincerity of the parties involved is important. The court will want to make sure that joint custody isn’t being traded for concessions on other points. Another consideration is whether the grant of joint custody will affect any state or federal assistance programs.
Currently, Welfare and Medical Assistance are affected based on the award of Joint Legal Custody. Be sure to check with your contact at any social service agencies before entering into an agreement or you may risk losing your benefits. This list is not meant to be complete, and the court will hear anything that they believe to be relevant.
If you are dealing with a child custody matter in Maryland, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The Law Offices of Stuart E. Williams can help you understand Maryland’s laws and guide you through the process of getting a custody order. Contact us today for more information.