Germantown, Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County, Maryland Child Custody Lawyers Assisting Clients Dealing With Child Custody Disputes in Maryland
Child custody is perhaps one of the most contested aspects of a divorce, and often the most emotionally draining factor as well. Being prepared to show the judge you are a good parent and acting with objectivity and clarity is really important – but not always easy. That is when having a strong child custody attorney on your side can positively impact the outcome of your case. At Paré & Associates, LLC, our attorneys assist clients with a wide variety of child custody-related issues. Here are a few important answers to common questions regarding child custody in Maryland.
How Does Child Custody Work in Maryland?
In Maryland, child custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. That may include the right to decide what kind of doctors and medical treatment the child may receive; where the child may attend school; and what kind of religious upbringing the child will get. Physical custody determines who the child will reside with.
A couple may share legal custody of their child, but only the mother (or the father) might receive sole physical custody, resulting in the other (non-custodial) parent visiting the child according to a predetermined parenting schedule. In other cases, both legal and physical custody is shared by both parents. These situations are referred to as joint custody or sole custody. Joint and sole custody can be legal, physical, or both. Each custody case is unique and may result in a unique custody arrangement depending on what the court determines to be in the child’s best interests.
Besides the aspects decided by a judge, you and your ex may want to add your own provisions covering how a variety of child custody aspects will be handled. Those may include how visitation will work for the non-custodial parent, how parental duties will be shared, who will claim the child as a dependent on their tax returns, and how vacation time will work. The judge will look over your plans and may approve them if they are in alignment with the best interests of the child.
How Does a Judge Determine Which Parent Gets Legal Custody in Maryland?
As previously mentioned, Maryland courts typically follow the “best interest of the child” legal standard when making custody decisions. There are several factors used by a judge to make that decision, and those may include determining who is the primary caregiver for the children (i.e., who handles their day-to-day routines such as feeding, getting dressed, going to school, etc.); which parent is physically and psychologically able to handle the children and raise them in an ethical and moral fashion; how far apart do both parents reside and which parent lives closer to the child’s school and extended family; and in some cases, the child’s preference (depending on age and level of maturity).
These are just a few examples of factors a judge may use to help decide a child custody case, but there may be many others depending on the judge’s preferences and on your specific case. This also goes to show that Maryland courts do not automatically favor the mother (or the father), and will likely make determinations based on what is best for the child – and not what is most convenient or favorable for the parent. Having a skilled child custody attorney on your side can be an important tool to help you reach a positive outcome for your case.
Are Children Allowed to Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With?
In Maryland, a child’s wishes for which parent they would like to live with can potentially be used as one of the factors a judge will consider when awarding custody to either parent or awarding joint custody to both parents. There is no minimum age for a child to have her preferences considered – it will all depend on the child’s level of maturity.
The child per se cannot decide which parent to live with, but parents may agree to allow the child to be interviewed by the judge in the judge’s chambers in order to express her wishes. This is usually done away from the courtroom, and both parties may request that their attorneys are present, and parents may or may not be present while the child is being interviewed.
If the judge thinks the child is mature enough to make a rational choice, he or she may take the child’s wishes into consideration. It is ultimately up to the judge to determine whether the child’s wishes align with what is in the child’s best interests.
How Can a Child Custody Attorney Help Me?
Each child custody case is unique and can become quite complex. It may be hard to maintain clarity of thought when you are afraid or unsure of what will happen and how you will continue to be part of your child’s life. Having an attorney on your side can help you think objectively and be better prepared to show the court you are able to provide a safe, nurturing environment for your child to be raised in while looking out for his or her interests.
Your attorney can help you with the formalities required for the child custody process, such as filing the right forms and submitting proper supporting documentation, but more than that, an attorney can help you put together a strategy to maximize your chances of winning your custody case. If you have questions about child custody or are facing a child custody dispute in or near Germantown, Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County, Maryland, MD, call Paré & Associates, LLC today at (301) 962-2492 to schedule a free consultation.