We Look Out For The Best Interests Of Your Child
Maryland law does not favor the mother or father in child custody decisions. The court’s sole consideration is what’s in the best interests of the child. Grandparents or other relatives may seek custody of a child, but the courts favor the natural parents unless there is a reason, such as abuse, not to do so.
If the parents cannot agree about who should have custody after their divorce, the court will grant either sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both parents. Custody orders are not permanent. If the circumstances change, a parent can ask the court for a modification of the custody order. Our family law attorneys at Haspel & McLeod, P.C., represent parents with compassion during the most difficult times of their lives.
Types Of Child Custody Arrangements In Maryland
“Child custody” is a phrase that covers a wide variety of legal arrangements, including:
- Temporary custody: If your child is living with you when you begin divorce proceedings, you need to formalize that arrangement by filing for temporary custody. Temporary custody is not an initial award of custody. It is merely a temporary arrangement while you wait for the court to hold a hearing on long-term custody.
- Legal custody: Legal custody is the right to make long-term decisions about your child’s education, religion, medical care and other important matters.
- Physical custody: Physical custody generally involves providing the primary home for the child and making the day-to-day decisions on the child’s behalf.
- Sole custody: One parent may be granted sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both.
- Split custody: This is applicable when there are two or more children. In a family with two children, for example, a split custody arrangement would give each parent sole physical custody of one of the children.
- Joint custody: There are three types of joint custody – joint legal custody, shared physical custody and a combination of those two.
- Joint legal custody: This is an arrangement in which the parents share care responsibility for the important long-term decisions about the child’s upbringing, even if the child lives primarily with only one of the parents.
- Shared physical custody: In this arrangement, the child has two residences, and spends no less than 35% of their time at each parent’s home.
- Combination: Subject to the court’s approval, parents can negotiate an arrangement that mixes elements of shared physical custody and joint legal custody. An example is a situation in which the child stays at one home and the parents live there on a rotating basis.
Our divorce attorneys at Haspel & McLeod, P.C., guide you through this maze of options and help you determine the custody arrangement that is best for your child and you. We help you with all aspects of your divorce, including issues involving child visitation and child support.
Will The Court Automatically Approve Joint Custody?
A joint custody arrangement would seem to best serve the child’s interests because it helps maintain both parents’ relationships with the child. But the court won’t approve your joint custody proposal without first scrutinizing it closely.
The court’s main concern is whether the parents can communicate and cooperate on decisions affecting the child. Parents who bicker over where the child should go to school or what religion the child should practice are not good candidates for shared custody in the eyes of the court. The factors a court considers in deciding whether to approve joint legal custody or shared physical custody include:
- The parents’ willingness and ability to share custody
- The emotional fitness of each parent
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s preference
- The age of the child
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable school and social life for the child
- The proximity of each parent’s home to the child’s school and friends
- Whether a parent’s job requires long hours or lots of travel
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs financially
- The sincerity of the parents (is one of them trading joint custody for a concession on some other disputed issue such as child support?)
- Whether any government benefits would be affected by joint custody
When you are seeking legal or physical custody of your child, our family law attorneys at Haspel & McLeod, P.C., will represent your interests in negotiations with your spouse and in court. After the custody arrangement is approved, we follow up and help you with enforcement of the custody order if your ex-spouse violates it.