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Defining the Best Interest of a Child in Maryland

A woman divorced the father of her four children five years ago. The father had a severe cocaine addiction, which often landed him in a Charles County jail. After his most recent release, he watched his children for two days while their mother had emergency surgery. Upon return from the hospital, the mother learned that Child Protective Services was notified by a teacher at the children’s school because they had severe bruises on their legs and cigarette burns on their feet. After a gut-wrenching trial, the father was found guilty of abusing the children and sentenced to 12 years in prison, being eligible for parole in eight years. 

Having recently been granted parole, the father is seeking visitation of his children. However, the mother seeks to fight any visitation or custody attempt because of the father’s prior abusive acts against the children and her learning from mutual friends and family that he is using cocaine again. The mother would greatly benefit from having a Maryland attorney on her side.

Obtaining custody in Maryland

In Maryland, a person may acquire physical or legal custody. Physical custody means a parent provides the daily care for a child and the primary residence. A parent may obtain sole physical custody, or both parents may possess joint physical custody. In addition to physical custody, a court may grant legal custody, which allows a parent to decide educational, religious and health issues regarding the child. To determine the custody arrangement, courts weigh the applicable elements provided in Montgomery County v. Sanders, including:

  • Fitness of the parents
  • Potential for maintaining natural family relations
  • Preference of the child
  • Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
  • Age, health, and sex of the child
  • Residences of the parents and the opportunity for visitation
  • Whether there was a prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of custody of the child

Parents may cooperatively create a custody agreement in the form of a parenting plan, which is presented to the court for approval. 

The lawyers at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A. provide effective representation for child custody proceedings. The firm represents clients in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, Calvert County and the surrounding areas. 

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