Protecting the legal rights of parents who are going through child custody disputes
For many people who are going through a divorce, a primary concern is whether they will be able to maintain a meaningful relationship with their child. After all, children are often directly impacted by a divorce and, in many cases, the separation of their parents may be more difficult on children that it is on the parents themselves. Maryland law recognizes that both parents have parental rights but considers the best interests of the child when making custody determinations. As such, good parents may be at risk of losing their parental rights and parents who are justifiably seeking sole custody may have a difficult time establishing that the other parent's rights should be terminated. For this reason, it is critical that anyone involved in a child custody dispute speak with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to explore his or her legal options.
Types of Child Custody
There are two types of Maryland child custody – physical custody and legal custody. Each type is explained in more detail below.
Legal custody involves the right to make important decisions about the way in which the child is raised, including decisions about education, healthcare, religion, discipline, and other important matters. Legal custody may be either “joint” or “sole;” if it is joint, both parents share in the decision-making process equally. In cases of sole legal custody, only one parent has rights regarding the way in which the child is raised.
Physical custody refers to a parent's rights and obligations in providing a home to the child as well as making day-to-day decisions required of a parent. Physical custody may be sole, meaning that only one parent has physical custody, or joint or shared custody, in which a child spends time with both parents for a specific period of time.
Maryland child custody determination factors
When determining child custody, the court considers the best interest of the child. In making this decision, the court will consider all relevant factors. Unlike some other states, Maryland law does not provide a comprehensive list of factors to consider; that being said, Maryland case law has set out some factors that a court will usually consider. These include the following:
- The fitness of the parents
- The character and reputation of the parties
- The desire of the parents and the agreements between the parties
- The potentiality of maintaining natural family relations
- The preference of the child
- Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
- The age, health, and sex of the child
- The location of the residences of the parents and the opportunities for visitation
- The length of separation between a parent and the child
- Either parent's prior abandonment or surrender of the child
Importantly, courts do not consider any of these factors to the exclusion of others and are free to look to the totality of the circumstances when making a child custody determination. As such, courts have significant discretion when determining child custody arrangements, so it is important for parents who are involved in child custody disputes to present the strongest evidence possible supporting their position.
Child support is a payment made by a noncustodial parent to a custodial parent in order to help with the costs associated with raising a child. Maryland courts use a formula to calculate child support using a model that estimate the amount of money that each parent would spend on their children if the parents were still married. Under §12–202 of the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code, the amount reached by the child support guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount to be awarded. A court may order a different amount from that reached by the calculation if one party can show that that amount would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.
Call a Maryland child custody attorney today to schedule a consultation
Individuals who are involved in a child custody dispute or who are concerned that one may arise during the course of their divorce should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. In many cases, the assistance of an experienced attorney can have a significant impact on the outcome of a child custody case and can ensure that your rights as a parent are kept intact. To schedule a consultation with Maryland child custody attorney Thomas K. Mallon, call our office today at 410-847-9075 or send us an email through our online contact form.