When two parents decide to separate (divorce), the court makes decisions about minor guardianship and it is included in the final divorce decree. In Maryland, the court may award sole or joint physical guardianship/ sole or joint legal guardianship.
- Joint custody is when both parents share custody of the child with an arrangement set by the court.
- Sole custody is when only one parent takes full responsibility of the child (full guardianship).
- Legal custody is the right to make serious life decisions about a child such as religion, health, education and etc.
- Physical custody is when the parent lives with the minor and is responsible for their day to day activities and needs such as eating, taking them to school, attending their parent-teacher interviews and etc.
If the court grants sole guardianship to one caretaker, this means a visitation order must be granted to the other caretaker (non-custodial) allowing them to spend time with their minor.
Divorced guardians in Maryland are always advised to work out minor guardianship arrangements by themselves. They must sit together and discuss an agreement that is suitable for both the mother and the father. This can be done with the aid of a “child custody” lawyer. If an arrangement is decided upon and both guardians have come to an agreement, the court must review this plan and will usually approve of it as long as it is in the minor’s best interest.
However, if the parents can’t seem to come to an agreement, then they must file their case to higher authorities (the court) for the judge to make the decision. First of all custody cases usually begin with one of the parents filing a custody or divorce complaint. For a parent to be able to file for custody, their child must have been a resident in Maryland for at least six months. In your complaint to the court, you must state why you think it is in the best interest of the child that you be granted child custody. You must also send a copy of this complaint to the other parent, along with any other supporting paperwork you filed to the court. The other parent will then have a limited amount of time to respond to your complaint.
If in the limited time given to the other caretaker in Maryland, they fail to respond or file an answer to the complaint, then you can demand that the court issue an order to give you child custody. However, if the other guardian does answer to your complaint, a hearing must be requested of the court where each guardian presents their case along with supporting evidence and witnesses on why they should gain minor guardianship. After the judge hears all sides of the case in Maryland, it makes a guardianship decision that is considered to be in the child’s best interest. The court takes into account many important factors such as the relationship of the parent with the child, the fitness level and the ability of the parent to raise the child providing them all resources needed financially and emotionally.