Custody of a Child in Annapolis with a family law attorney

How to Get Custody of a Child in Annapolis

patrickcrawford | April 21, 2022
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If your goal is to obtain primary or sole physical custody of a child in Annapolis, the most important first step you can take is reaching out to an experienced Annapolis child custody attorney as early in the process as possible. Whether you are facing a divorce, are seeking a post-divorce modification, or are addressing child custody outside of marriage and divorce, child custody cases are challenging, but a better understanding of the process can help you make well-informed decisions as you move forward. 

Physical Custody and Legal Custody

Child custody in Maryland is grouped into both physical custody and legal custody. If you and your children’s other parents are able to negotiate mutually acceptable custody terms, the court is very likely to accept them. If not, however, you will need the court to make your child custody determinations for you. The general belief is that – barring a reason for ruling otherwise – children’s best interests are best served when they are able to spend a considerable amount of time with both parents, and this belief will also guide the court’s decision-making process in your case.   

Physical Custody

Physical custody relates to parenting time, which sets the schedule whereby you and your children’s other parents divide your time with your shared children. The primary custodial parent has the children the majority of the time, which means that the children spend more than half their overnights with this parent. When it comes to physical custody, there are an infinite number of scheduling variations, but they can all be grouped into one of the following categories:

  • One parent becomes the primary custodial parent, and the other has a parenting time schedule.
  • One parent has sole physical custody, while the other has a visitation schedule. 
  • Both parents divide their parenting time evenly – or close to evenly. 

Legal Custody

Legal custody relates to who will be making important decisions that guide your children’s lives moving forward. The kind of decisions involved include:

  • Children’s schooling
  • Healthcare your children receive
  • Children’s religious education
  • Children’s extracurriculars and travel
  • Where your children live

One of you can be awarded sole legal custody, or you and your ex share joint legal custody in which you make these primary parenting decisions together. When joint legal custody is awarded, one parent may receive the tie-breaking authority necessary to make a final decision in the event that you are not able to reach a consensus – after endeavoring in good faith to do so. It is important to note that one parent can have sole physical custody while sharing joint legal custody – and vice versa.  

Shared Physical Custody

In order for child custody to be considered shared, the following must apply:

  • Each of you must have a minimum of 128 overnights with your shared children, which translates to being responsible for them about 35 percent of the time. 
  • Both must contribute to the cost of raising your children (outside of other financial awards and of the child support payments ordered).

If, for example, your children’s other parent doesn’t meet these standards, you will have sole physical custody while your ex has a visitation schedule. If, on the other hand, you have your children more than half the time, you will be considered the primary custodial parent. Understanding your options can help you bring your strongest child custody case in the State of Maryland. 

Best Interest Factors

When the court makes decisions that directly affect the welfare of children, it is always guided by the best interests of those children. As such, it takes all the following best interest factors into consideration:

  • Number of kids involved and their overall health and ages
  • Level of fitness as a parent, as well as your ex’s 
  • Your ability to maintain a stable, healthy home for your children and your ex’s ability to do so
  • Character and reputation, as well as your ex’s  
  • The sincerity of your preference to be the primary custodial parent, as well as the sincerity of your ex’s preference 
  • Each of your abilities to communicate with one another and reach a consensus on critical matters
  • Each child’s preference (if he or she is considered mature enough to reasonably weigh in on the matter) 
  • The degree to which each of you is willing to accommodate shared custody with the other
  • Skills of each of you is capable of maintaining healthy family relations
  • Distance between your homes and how it affects the ability of either of you to spend time with your shared children
  • Financial stability and that of your ex’s
  • Job demands on each parent, and how this affects the ability of either of you to spend time with your shared children

Other Interest Factors:

  • The relationship each of you has established with each of your shared children
  • Amount of time you and your ex have been separated 
  • Your ability to meet each child’s unique needs, including any special needs, and your ex’s ability to do so
  • How well your children have acclimated to the home, community, and school where they currently live
  • Actions which each of you has participated in parenting your shared children to date
  • Any efforts by either of you to alienate the affections of any of your shared children
  • Another factor the court deems relevant 

In other words, child custody cases are challenging, and working closely with a seasoned attorney is always in your best interest. 

Custody of a Child in Annapolis-FAQs

The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions related to child custody may answer some of your own questions.  

If my ex fails to pay court-ordered child support, can I withhold visitation?

No, court-ordered child support and court-ordered visitation are two distinct matters. If your ex is not paying child support, you will need to address the matter with the court. 

Are my children old enough to voice their preferences regarding child custody?

There is no set age at which children are considered old enough to voice their preferences in relation to child custody. The matter is always considered on a case-by-case basis, but if a child is deemed mature enough to weigh in meaningfully, the court may be interested in hearing his or her preference in the matter. 

Does Maryland recognize grandparents’ rights?

In the state of Maryland, grandparents have no inherent legal rights to visitation. In order to gain visitation rights, grandparents must bring independent legal actions as third-party petitioners.    

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Attorney on Custody of a Child in Annapolis

Child custody is a complex matter, and seeking sole custody can be an uphill battle outside of extreme circumstances. A family law attorney can evaluate your options for obtaining sole or shared custody of your children before your case begins. Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford in Annapolis is a trusted child custody attorney whose focus is on zealously protecting the parental rights of clients like you. Your case is important, and we are here to help – so please don’t wait to contact us for more information today.

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