One of the primary divorce legal issues that must be resolved when parents in Maryland decide to end their marriage is child custody. It is important to understand what child custody and visitation looks like in Maryland. This is true whether parents are negotiating a parenting plan out of court or whether they are turning to a judge to make child custody decisions.
There are two types of child custody in Maryland. One is legal custody. A parent with legal custody has the right to make important decisions regarding the child, such as where the child will go to school, what religion the child will practice and the child’s healthcare options. One parent can be granted sole legal custody or both parents could share joint legal custody.
The other type of custody is physical custody. A parent with physical custody takes care of the child’s daily needs; that is, the child generally resides with the parent who has physical custody. Both parents could be granted joint physical custody. Alternatively, one parent could be granted sole physical custody and the non-custodial parent will have visitation rights.
In Maryland, there is no presumption that joint custody is in the child’s best interests or that the mother is presumed to be the best caretaker of the child. Instead, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. In determining what is in the child’s best interests, the court will take into account a variety of factors. Some examples of the factors the court will consider include the child’s wellbeing, the child’s age and each party’s health, among others.
Ultimately, the child’s best interests are the primary concern when any child custody decisions are made. This is true both when the initial order of child custody is made, as well as when any modifications to the order are made down the road. Child custody decisions can affect parents and the child for many years to come. It is important that careful thought is given to the situation before any decisions are made.