When a couple with children divorces, the question of who retains legal and physical custody of the children must be decided. Legal custody refers to the legal right to make decisions about significant issues pertaining to the children’s education, welfare, religion, training and other matters. Physical custody refers to the legal right to physically take care of the children and provide a home. The parent with physical custody must make all the day-to-day decisions during the time the children are present in the home with them. Both legal and physical custody can be held by a single parent or jointly in Maryland.
As is the case in the rest of the country, Maryland family court judges decide child custody cases based on what is in the best interest of the child. However, Maryland law does not dictate what guidelines the judge must follow. The judge is free to base his or her decision on all the facts and circumstances associated with each individual case. Maryland also does not assume that joint custody is automatically in the best interest of the child. No preferential treatment is given to one parent over the other based on gender. In other words, it is not automatically assumed that the mother should have physical custody of the child, as has been typical in the past.
Joint Physical Custody and Parenting Plans
Before any court order is issued, both parents are equal legal guardians for any children under the age of 18. If a divorcing couple can work out their own agreement on joint physical custody and a parenting plan, this is the preferred option in Maryland family court. Parents sharing physical custody of their children must determine how much time the children will spend with each parent, especially when it comes to holidays and school vacations. The court will review any parenting plan submitted to them to ensure the children’s best interest is at the heart of the agreement.
Couples who cannot agree on custody of their children will be heard by the court and a court order will determine matters of custody, visitation, and support. In Maryland, factors and circumstances considered in making custody decisions include the physical and psychological fitness of each parent as well as their character and reputation; the children’s preference; the children’s relationship to other family members; material opportunities available to the children with each parent; the children’s age, sex, and health; whether the children were ever voluntarily abandoned by either parent; and any agreements or requests regarding custody made by the parents.
In awarding joint physical custody in Maryland, the court will additionally consider the working relationship of the parents. The court will also factor in how well they are able to communicate with each other regarding a parenting plan with its many details for the care of the children.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Provide Experienced Counsel in Custody Matters and Development of Parenting PlansFor all your family law legal needs, contact the dedicated Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. We can answer all your questions about child custody and help you draft a successful parenting plan. Call us today at 443-589-0150 to schedule a free and confidential consultation about your situation or contact us online. We have convenient office locations in Towson and Hunt Valley serving clients throughout the greater Baltimore area.