In a divorce where a child is involved, Maryland laws do not favour one parent over the other but rather the child’s best interest is looked at. There are many types of custody that a court can order after a divorce. Sole custody means that one parent has complete custody over a child. Sole custody comes in two parts; sole physical custody and sole legal custody. Court judgments of custody and visitation are not permanent. This means that if one parent gets sole custody and the other parent is not happy with that, they can always petition the court to modify this agreement.
As well as sole physical or legal custody, the court in Maryland may also order temporary custody, split custody, joint custody, legal and physical custody. Depending on the factors the court will take into consideration when determining the child’s best interest, either parent may be granted sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both.
In Maryland, sole legal custody refers to one parent being involved in the important decision-making rights and responsibilities about the child’s welfare, Such as education, religion, and non-emergency medical care. Sole physical custody refers to only one parent being the primary caregiver, such as being the one to provide the child with food, shelter, and clothing. In the case that one parent is granted sole legal and/or physical custody then Maryland custody laws will often grant the other parent visitation rights.
In order to win sole physical and legal custody then the parent seeking this must demonstrate to the court that it is in the best interests of the child.
This will include demonstrating to the court that:
- The parent seeking custody is the primary caregiver.
- The parent seeking sole custody can maintain good family relationships between the child and the other parent.
- The parent seeking sole custody has not previously abandoned the child.
- The other parent has the ability to meet the child’s needs.
- That the parent seeking custody has time to take care of the child i.e. no long work hours or extensive travel.
- The parent seeking custody can meet the child’s financial and emotional needs.
- The other parent has a substance abuse problem.
- The other parent shows violent behaviour towards the child.
- The other parent has a lack of involvement in the child’s life.
Some parents may have a custody agreement in place already. In some cases, one parent might be willing to give the other parent sole physical and legal custody. There are some circumstances which make it easier for one party to get sole custody, for example in the event of death, imprisonment, neglect or insanity of the other party. However, there may be a third party such as a grandparent who might also want to fight for custody of the child.
In Maryland, the non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent to cover the child’s expenses. The custodial parent physically takes care of the child most of the time while the non- custodial parent has scheduled visitation. Because of this, the non-custodial will be required to pay child support to share the expenses of food, transportation, and education of the child.