Child Custody and Visitation/Access
If child custody could be simplified it is a process of knowing where the child lives and who makes decisions for the child. However, child custody is so much more complex and generally difficult to determine who makes legal decisions for the child or where the child spends his or her time.
The courts break down child custody into two distinct parts, primarily consisting of:
- Legal Custody; and
- Physical Custody
Legal custody entails how major or substantial decisions are made for a child. Legal custody issues consist of who will make decisions based on issues related to the child's education, medical, religious, and discipline. Legal custody can be described as sole legal custody to one party, joint legal custody to both parties, and joint legal custody to both parties with one party having tie-breaking authority.
Physical custody consists of where the child resides, and how time is shared between parties for the benefit of the child. Physical custody of a child can be joint or shared time between each parties' home, sole or primary physical custody to one party; or split custody, if there are more than one child spending time between parent's homes.
Maryland courts determine custody based on a standard of what is in the child's best interest and focus on several child custody factors in determining physical and legal custody of children, including the following:
- Capacity of parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child's welfare
- Age, health and gender of the child
- A parent's ability to maintain family relationships
- Willingness of Parents to share custody
- Fitness of Parents
- Relationship Established Between Child and Each Parent
- Preference of the child
- Potential Disruption of Child's Social and School Life
- Geographic Proximity of Parental Homes
- Demands of Parental Employment
- Sincerity of Parents' Request for Custody
- Financial Status of the Parents
- Impact on State or Federal Assistance
- Any prior abandonment or surrender of custody
After establishing physical custody, courts will often set a visitation or access schedule for the child and each party to spend time. Access and visitation schedules usually set out holidays, and special events between the parties to have access with parents and other family members.
For more information on filing for custody in Maryland and how we can help, contact the Law Office of Jerry Williams III at (410) 415-9333, send us an email at [email protected] or use our online contact form.