FACTORS THE COURT CONSIDERS FOR CUSTODY AND VISITATION
Maryland Child Custody Attorney Explains The Factors the Court Considers for Custody and Visitation
Under Maryland law, both the father and mother are equally presumed to be the natural parent of their children, unlike some states that may give favor to the mother from the get-go. Custody and visitation rights are strictly granted specifically considering the best interest of the child or children. Other family members may seek custody of the children, but the favoritism is given to the natural mother and father. If you need assistance with determining visitation, make sure you speak to a Maryland child custody attorney.
Custody and visitation arrangements are never permanent; either parent may request a reassessment of the arrangements as circumstances change. This is accomplished through the petition of the Court for a Court order modification.
Factors Affecting Custody and Visitation
The court is meant to follow specific guidelines to establish the best situation for the child, regardless of any agreement made between the spouses. Many factors go into the court’s decision, such as:
- Primary care giver – who is the person that primarily takes care of the child? This is established by feeding, providing clothing, taking the child to school and other activities, bathing the child, setting up daycare, etc.
- Fitness – is each parent physically and psychologically capable of raising the child? Any physical or emotional abuse, whether against the child in question, another child, or the other parent, is taken into consideration.
- Character and reputation
- Previous custody agreements
- Ability to maintain family relationships – the court will try to prevent dramatic interruptions in the child’s life, such as their relationships with other family members. Which parent is more likely to permit the child to interact with the family members of the other spouse? Which parent is less likely to punish the child for the behavior of the other parent?
- Child’s preference The judge will possibly decide to interview the child privately to determine if there is any pressure from a parent. Children 10 or older ought to be permitted to establish a preference, if they so desire. The court may hear from a child as young as 5 or 6, depending on the perceived maturity of the child, such as his or her ability to distinguish truth from fiction. The court is permitted to appoint an attorney for the child in cases of contested custody. A court’s decision can be overturned if the preference of the child is not taken into consideration.
- Financial standing – do both parents have the resources to provide the child with the best life?
- Age, health, and gender of the child
- Residences of the parents – how close to the parents live to each other? How far does each parent live from other family members? Which parent lives closer to the child’s school and activities?
- Length of separation – how long has either parent been separated from the child?
- Prior abandonment or surrender of custody – if a parent has abandoned the other spouse and family for any period of time, this may negatively affect that parent’s custodial rights.
- Religious views – this is only relevant when it can be shown that the religious views may affect the physical or emotional well being of the child.
- Disability – does a parent’s disability affect the best interest of the child?
Parents may come to some agreement regarding a shared physical and legal custody arrangement. This may consist of the child splitting his or her time with each parent living in separate residences. A Maryland child custody attorney can help you settle some of the specifics.
Joint custody agreements are closely scrutinized by the court. It is important that each parent agrees to discuss and agree upon decisions that affect the child’s welfare. If parents are constantly fighting about significant elements of the child’s life, such as religion or education, the court may strike down the shared custody agreement. Other factors that affect joint custody arrangements include:
- Willingness to share custody
- Fitness to parent
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s preference
- The ability to provide a stable education and social life
- The proximity of each parent’s home to school and family
- Employment situation, such as extended hours or extensive travel
- The age and number of children of each parent
- The financial status of each parent
- The benefit of custody to each parent
The apparent sincerity of each parent is also taken into consideration. The court will want to ensure that no parent is agreeing to joint custody in order to be granted other benefits in the divorce, such as physical property or money.
Federal and state assistance programs such as welfare and medical assistance are affected by the award of joint legal custody. It is important for parents to consider the consequences of their custody agreements before finalization.
Though you may be on good terms with your estranged spouse, it is very important to seek an experienced Maryland child custody attorney to ensure you are protected during divorce proceedings. Relations can change quickly and with the highly emotional situation of the death of a marriage it is important to have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side.
Call a Maryland Child Custody Attorney For Your Legal Needs
The court considers a variety of factors when determining child custody and visitation rights. It can be a very stressful and complicated process but our attorneys The Burton Firm is dedicated to ensure an agreement is settled for the best interest of all parties involved. Give us a call to speak to a Maryland child custody attorney today.