Under Maryland law, both the mother and father are favored and both of them are considered as natural guardians of the children. While deciding on the child custody and child visitation, the courts will work in the best interest of the child. There are certain factors that define what is best for the child.
Also, note that visitation arrangements are not permanent and can change depending on the situation. Either of the guardians can always petition the Court to modify a Court order.
Visitation is the arrangement made for contact between the child and the guardian (or third party) who do not reside with that guardian.
There are different types of visitation including:
- flexible visitation;
- practical visitation as determined by the custodial parent;
- structured visitation to include holidays, weekends and summer vacations; and
- Supervised visitation.
If one guardian has sole legal guardianship, that guardian has the authority to make long term decisions regarding the health, education, and religious decisions for the minor. The guardian who does not have legal guardianship should not try to disrupt those decisions.
How visitation schedules are determined in Maryland?
Parents are encouraged by the court to work together to decide a visitation schedule that will be in the best interests of the child. If parents are able to work together to set a schedule that will benefit the child’s needs and accommodate the parents’ schedules, the courts have mediation resources available to assist. Mediators certified by the courts are available in every county to offer unbiased support to allow the parents to meet the needs of their child.
Types of Custody in Maryland
In Maryland, one of the separated parents may petition a circuit court for guardianship of a child. If the parties do not reach an agreement on guardianship, the court will grant guardianship either solely to one of the parents or shared custodial rights.
Types of Court Ordered Custody in Maryland
Temporary Custody – Also called as pendente lite, it means pending the litigation. In order to validate guardianship before the litigation begins, you will need to file for temporary guardianship. It will be awarded based on the best interests of the child. The guardian shall have temporary guardianship while waiting for the court to hold a hearing. For temporary guardianship, you must file a request for hearing and an Order for Temporary guardianship and Support along with your Complaint for guardianship or Divorce.
Legal and Physical Custody – The court ordered guardianship has two components – legal and physical. In legal custody, the parent can make long-term plans and decisions regarding education, religious training, discipline, non-emergency medical care and other matters of major significance concerning the child’s welfare. Physical custody involves spending time with the child and making decisions about the child’s everyday needs.
Sole Custody – A parent may be granted sole legal guardianship, sole physical guardianship, or both.
Split Custody in case of two or more children – When there are two children and each parent obtains full physical guardianship over one child.
Joint Custody – Joint guardianship is actually broken down into three categories: Joint Legal, Shared Physical, and Combination.
Jurisdiction means if the court has the power and authority to decide the case. There are two types of jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. The court must have both types of jurisdiction to hear a case.
Primary Care Giver:
The primary caregiver is the person who takes care of the child, feeds the child, shops for clothes, prepares for school, bathes them, and arranges daycare, etc.
Other factors include fitness, character and reputation, agreements, ability to maintain family relationships, child preference, material opportunity, age, health and gender of the child, residences of guardians and opportunity for visitation, length of separation, any prior abandonment or surrender of guardianship, religious views, disability, etc.
Joint Custody Agreements
Parents can also agree to shared physical and joint legal guardianship. The most important factor to Joint Legal guardianship and Shared Physical guardianship is the capacity of the parents to discuss and reach cooperative decisions for the child’s welfare.
Also, the sincerity of the parties is important. The court will ensure that joint custody isn’t being traded for some benefits.
If both the parents have reached a fair agreement on the custody and visitation issue, make your own stipulation and consent order. A stipulation is a statement describing the agreement that you have reached. A consent order is a draft for the judge to sign if he/she agrees to accept your agreement. The court has the power to enforce the agreement in the future.
When opting for this, both parents should strive to avoid future conflicts.
The stipulations should state everything that you have agreed upon and not rely on verbal promises. Your agreement should be included with your Complaint for Custody, Complaint for Visitation or Complaint for Divorce.
If the parents are unmarried, and the father is claiming the rights to the child including rights to custody or visitation, paternity must be established in court.
A father can establish paternity by:
- A court determination of paternity;
- Admitting paternity in writing;
- Telling others that the child is his;
- Or by marrying the mother and then acknowledging himself as the father, either in writing or orally.
Even though paternity is established, the mother or father will not be given preference based solely on their gender.
Maryland courts will not award custody or unsupervised visitation to parents found guilty of first or second-degree murder of:
- The other parent,
- Another child of the parent,
- Or any family member residing in the household of either parent.
Disagreement about custody and visitation?
When having trouble reaching an agreement, the parents should opt for mediation. A mediator will help in reaching a fair and just agreement.
Court Ordered Mediation
The court can order mediation in Maryland when:
- The case begins;
- When parties request modification of an existing order; or
- When filing a contempt action.
- When mediation is ordered at the initial proceeding, it will stop all legal process and other actions until the mediation is complete. The court will initially order two sessions but additional sessions may also be ordered. Mediation can be continued without a court order. The court also has the power to order one or both parties to pay for the mediation.
Violation of custody agreement
When a guardianship order has violated the law requires the custodial parent/lawful custodian to first demand the return of the child. The FBI can be called in to find the fugitive parent and the child as well.
The exception to this rule is when the child is in danger necessitating the non-custodial parent to save them. The non-custodial parent should prove this clear and present danger and as required by Maryland law must file a petition within 96 hours.
Can a child decide on the custody and visitation in Maryland?
Courts may adhere to the wishes of older children but rarely take into account the wishes of very young children. Children over 16 years may petition the court for a change in custody.
Do grandparents or relatives have custody or visitation rights?
The natural parents will have a presumptive right to custody but in cases where the parents are unfit or in exceptional circumstances, will third parties be granted custody. After a divorce, grandparents of the children may petition the court for visitation rights.
If you need the help of a Maryland child custody lawyer to help you with your Maryland visitation case, please call our office at 888-437-7747. Our Maryland child custody attorneys can help you. B