Columbia Child Custody Attorney
Representing Clients in Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Surrounding Counties
Maryland Child Custody Law
There are two types of custody that a court may order:
- Legal custody involves the right to make decisions that significantly affect a child’s life relating to their health, education, religion, and general welfare. The court can order sole legal custody to one parent or joint legal custody whereby the parents must work together in making decisions that affect their child. Courts may order additional provisions regarding joint legal custody, including awarding one parent tie-breaking authority in the event of a dispute.
- Physical custody involves where the child will reside and who will have the decision-making ability regarding day-to-day activities.
In contested custody cases, the court will make a decision regarding physical and legal custody of the children. Alternatively, parties can come to an agreement regarding settlement of a custody arrangement. The guiding principle for the court in any child custody case is what is in the best interest of the child.
Many factors are considered by the court in making a best interest determination including:
- fitness of the parents
- willingness of the parents to share custody
- any agreements between the parents
- potential for the child to maintain familial relations
- child’s preference (when appropriate)
- potential disruption to child’s school and social life
- material opportunities affecting the child
- child’s age and health
- suitability of the parental homes
- whether the non-custodial parent will have reasonable visitation
- how long the child has been separated from a parent
- any prior abandonment or surrender of the child
- any other relevant facts
When a third party (i.e. someone who is not one of the child’s legal parents) is seeking custody, Maryland case law has long maintained a presumption that it is in a child’s best interest to be raised by his or her parents. This presumption can be rebutted by a showing of parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances. In contested custody cases between two parents, there is no presumption in favor of awarding custody to either parent; the court has wide discretion to act in the child’s best interests.
At What Age Can Child Decide Custody in Maryland?
In Maryland, a child can express their preference for custody at 16.
However, the court will still consider all the factors involved in making a custody decision, including the child's wishes, the parents' parenting abilities, and the child's best interests.
The court will also consider the child's maturity and ability to understand the consequences of their decision.
If the court believes the child needs to be more mature to make an informed decision, it may give their preference little weight.
Ultimately, deciding who will have child custody is up to the Maryland court.
The court in Columbia will decide based on what it believes is in the child's best interests.
What is an Unfit Parent in Maryland?
In Maryland, an unfit parent is someone who fails to meet the established legal standards of parental responsibility. Unfit parents may demonstrate a lack of care or concern for their children's safety and well-being. They may also display patterns of behavior that are detrimental to their children's physical, emotional, or psychological development. Examples of such behaviors include neglectful parenting, substance abuse, domestic violence, criminal activity, mental illness, and other similar issues.
If you believe your former partner has become an unfit parent in Maryland due to these behaviors, it is important to take legal action as soon as possible. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process of taking away the other parent's rights and responsibilities. This may include modifying child custody orders, removing parental rights, or terminating a parent's legal relationship with the child entirely. By working with an attorney familiar with Maryland's family law regulations, you can ensure that your children are protected from any further harm caused by their unfit parents.
ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY FLAG
There is no court decision that can have more of an emotional impact on a parent than a custody order.
FLAG attorneys’ extensive experience advocating for both parents and children makes us uniquely qualified to explain to our clients those factors that are most important when the court evaluates what is in your child’s best interest in making a custody decision.
We will attempt to resolve your case amicably, always cognizant of your desired outcome. But should your case proceed to trial, we will be well prepared with an articulate, persuasive argument to obtain a favorable ruling for you.
Call our office (410) 884-0400 to schedule an Initial Consultation to discuss your legal rights.
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