Preserving the Relationship Between You and Your Child After Divorce
Providing for and sustaining a family is one of the core values of American life. Parents everywhere strive to create stable and meaningful lives for their children while being able to spend time with them and grow the bonds that only family can create. However, it is not always in the best interests of everyone involved to continue certain marriages, and divorce affects both spouses and children. Understanding Maryland’s child custody laws is an important step in assuring the best outcome from a divorce.
Legal vs. physical custody
There are two aspects of a child’s life that are distributed when two parents get a divorce. Legal custody determines decision-making rights for the child’s well-being, such as health, education and religious decisions. Physical custody determines where the child is going to live and all actual care-taking rights, such as providing food, shelter and clothing.
Sole vs. joint custody
After legal and physical custody is assigned, there are two ways custody can be carried out. Sole custody means one parent holds all custody rights. For example, one parent may have the right to make all legal decisions or all physical decisions, or both. Joint custody means both parents share rights and must agree on all decisions involved. Maryland law usually grants visitation rights to the non-custodial parent if sole custody is awarded to the other parent.
Parents are encouraged to reach a joint agreement for child custody, but if no compromise can be found, a Maryland court decides which parent is awarded custody. Child custody laws and courts in Maryland don’t immediately assume a joint custody arrangement is the best option. The decision is based on the best interests of the child, and, while there is no official list, factors such as the following affect who is awarded custody:
- The child’s and parents’ age
- The child’s special needs
- The locations of the parents’ houses
- The child’s and parents’ relationship
- The history of neglect or abuse
- The child’s preference
- The effect of potentially moving schools or neighborhoods
It is important to have an understanding family law attorney in La Plata guide you through the process to reach the best possible arrangement for you and your child.