A Quick Primer on Maryland’s Child Custody Laws

Family law courts in Maryland base their custody and visitation orders on what is in the best interest of the children. They look at the “totality of the circumstances” when making decisions, and there is no one factor that they consider that outweighs all the others. The court can order different types of custody arrangements, depending on the family’s circumstances, the needs of the children, the parents’ income, health and history, and many other elements.

The two primary types of custody in Maryland are:

  • Physical custody: This type concerns issues like where the child lives on a daily basis.
  • Legal custody: This type concerns parental decision making authority. It covers issues like whether or not the children participate in after school activities, go to summer camp, take music lessons and get braces on their teeth as well as more substantive issues related to medical care and religious upbringing.

Common custody arrangements include:

  • Joint physical and legal custody: Each parent shares equally in time spent with the children and in making decisions for the children.
  • Sole physical custody with joint legal custody: The children live with one parent, and the other has visitation rights. Parents share equally in decision making for the children.
  • Sole physical and legal custody: The children live on a daily basis with one parent who also makes all decisions affecting the children.

Parents are encouraged to establish their own parenting plans. When they are unable to do this, the court will make parenting decisions for them based on what the court determines is in the best interest of the children. A hearing will be held where the court will consider all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

  • The current relationship the children have with each parent.
  • The willingness of each parent to maintain and encourage a relationship with the other parent.
  • The employment situation of each parent. For instance, does one parent travel or work long hours? If so, do those factors constrain his or her ability to care for the children?
  • Whether either parent has faced charges of domestic violence, abuse, neglect or criminal activity.
  • The preference of children who are old enough to express an opinion.
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant.

The DiPietro Family Law Group can help you develop a parenting plan that respects your needs and values and protects your children from harm. Contact us for a consultation online, or call us at 301.970.9286.

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