Protecting Your Parental Rights In Maryland
Custody cases tend to be highly sensitive and emotionally draining for all parties involved. With so much at stake in the courtroom, most parents go to great lengths to obtain positive outcomes.
By working with an experienced child custody lawyer, you can improve your chances of getting an arrangement that is best for you and your child. At The JC Law Group, LLC, in Upper Marlboro, we are here to guide you through this critical process. We handle divorces, custody disputes and other sensitive family law matters for people in Prince George’s County and throughout the surrounding areas.
Understanding Maryland Custody Laws
Every state has its own laws regarding child custody and visitation (or access, as visitation is called under Maryland law). In Maryland, both parents are presumed to be the natural custodian of a child. The rights of the mother are not favored over the rights of the father. Rather, the court considers what is in the best interests of the child.
In some cases, the decision is not left to the court. Rather, both parents discuss child custody and establish their own parenting plan. If the court signs off on the plan, the couple must adhere to it. Failing to do so comes with legal consequences. Although this option is easier than going to court, not all couples are able to come up with an agreement. The same is true of child support, and you may need a skilled family law attorney to assist you.
If you and the other parent can’t agree on an arrangement, the case goes to trial. There are four basic types of custody the court could award.
- Sole custody: Only one parent has full rights to the child.
- Split custody: This occurs when there are two children and each parent gets sole custody of one child. However, it is a rare arrangement. The court doesn’t like to see siblings torn apart.
- Joint custody: This is by far the most common type of custody arrangement. With joint legal custody, each parent has control over how the child is raised. They must work together to make decisions. It’s possible for the child to live with one parent and only have visitation with the other.
- Shared custody: In this type of custody, the child continues to have contact with both parents. The nonresidential parent has the children for a minimum of 128 overnight stays per year.
Determining The Best Interests Of The Child
When coming up with a custody arrangement, the court thinks about what’s in the best interests of the child. A Maryland judge will consider all of the following:
- Who is the primary caregiver?: The court will determine which parent provides the most care for the child. This means who feeds them, buys their clothes and gives them comfort. In most custody cases, one parent has a greater burden of being a caregiver.
- What is the fitness of each parent?: One parent may be more physically or psychologically prepared to care for a child. For instance, a parent with a serious health condition may not be able to give the child the full-time care they need.
- What is the character and reputation of each parent?: Although this doesn’t weigh heavily in the court’s decision, it does matter. You may use character witnesses to vouch for yourself and your ability to be a great parent.
- What does the child want?: A judge won’t make a decision based solely on the wants of a child. However, they will consider the child’s preference. Usually, the child needs to be over a certain age. There have been exceptions, and a family law attorney in Prince George’s County can explain more about this topic.
- Which parent will maintain the family relationships?: At times, one parent aims to isolate the child from the other parent’s family. The court doesn’t want this and could hold this against them. For instance, one parent might refuse to let a child see their grandmother. Their failure to foster a relationship could affect their custody arrangement.
- How close do the parents live to one another?: If the parents do not live close together, certain visitation arrangements won’t be feasible. The court will consider the distance between each parent as well as how close each party lives to the child’s school and extended family.
- Did one parent surrender custody or abandon the child?: One parent might have a history of walking out on the child. This could affect the custody arrangement, as it could convince the court to give less visitation time to the parent who left.
Speak With An Experienced Child Custody Lawyer Today
When it comes to an issue like child custody, you could feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot on the line, and one wrong move could hurt your case. By working with a knowledgeable child custody and child support lawyer, you can prevent a mistake. Furthermore, you get a chance to fight for yourself and your child.