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Maryland Child Custody
Child Custody in Maryland

According to the Maryland Code, Family Law, Sections 5-203, 9-101 and 9-103, "[t]he court may award custody of a minor child to either parent or joint custody to both parents, with neither parent being presumed to have any right to custody that is superior to the right of the other parent."

Maryland courts award custody to the parent who is capable of childcare and support. Divorcing parents make a parenting plan that outlines their parental roles and responsibilities.

When parents cannot agree, the court intervenes to resolve issues on child custody, support, or visitation rights. The court may award joint- or single- parent custody. When one parent receives custody, the other parent may obtain visitation rights. A child who is 16 years old or older may file a petition to amend custody arrangements.

There are several factors that the courts consider in deciding whether or not joint custody is plausible, including:

  • the child's wishes or preferences, provided he or she is mature enough to make such claims (generally, when the child is 12 or above);
  • the child's relationship between his or her parents, siblings, and other individuals that could affect his or her welfare;
  • the nature of the parents' relationship to each other;
  • the parents' willingness to foster and encourage a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • the parents' ability and willingness to work together in making decisions on how they should raise their child;
  • the parent-child relationship; and
  • any history of child abuse, domestic violence, or negligence.

In summary, the best interest of the child is the key factor in determining custody. The state's family courts resolve all custody issues through fair proceedings.

In Maryland, physical custody refers to the possession by the custodial parent. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child's care.

Sole custody means that one parent has exclusive control over where the child lives and the child's upbringing. Joint custody means that the parents share at least one aspect of custody.

In Maryland, parents can have joint legal custody where both have a say in how the child is raised and have joint physical custody where the child lives with both parents (spending at least 35 percent of the time at each parent's home) or share joint legal and physical custody.

Split custody is uncommon in Maryland and only occurs when parents have more than one child. With split custody, each parent has full custody of at least one child. Courts do not like to divide siblings, so a split custody order is only considered after a court examines the age and maturity of each child, as well as the children's preferences.

Joint Custody Preference

Maryland law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as practically possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse, or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. The courts have discretion to deny custody to a spouse who is believed to have abused or neglected the child and when there is probability of repeating such misdemeanor in the future.

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