Your child custody agreement spells out both physical custody, which determines parents’ child access and visitation and legal custody, which determines parents’ decision-making authority. Both are naturally important components of your rights and responsibilities as a parent. Your current child custody orders may have worked well when you were first divorced – or when the terms were handed down by the court – but this can change over time.
Maryland courts recognize that child custody modifications are sometimes necessary and, in response, award them when warranted, which translates to when a material change has occurred. If you have questions or concerns regarding a child custody modification, turn to the professional legal guidance of an experienced Maryland child custody attorney for the help you need today.
Physical custody sets the schedule by which you and your ex share your time with your children, and just like legal custody, it is determined in accordance with the children’s best interests. Basic options when it comes to the terms of physical custody generally include the following:
Legal custody, on the other hand, determines who will be making primary parenting decisions regarding the children’s upbringing, including those related to the following:
Parents sometimes continue making these decisions together, but one parent may be awarded sole legal custody. Other options include each parent taking on specific categories of decision-making authority or one parent being awarded tie-breaking authority – when legal custody is shared.
In the State of Maryland, the court assumes that the current child custody orders support the best interests of the involved children – because this is what guides every child custody determination in the state. In order to modify said orders, parents need to demonstrate that relevant circumstances have changed to such a degree that the current orders no longer support the children’s best interests. The standard here is what the courts call a material change in circumstances. A material change refers to a significant change in circumstances that affects your family’s child custody needs.
There are certain changes that tend to qualify as material changes that support child custody modifications, including:
It’s important to note that child custody and child support are distinct and separate legal matters. This means that child visitation with the kids cannot be withheld in response to unpaid child support and that child support cannot go unpaid in response to withheld visitation. Failure to comply with either child support or child custody orders can, however, lead to serious legal consequences that could ultimately lead to a modification of either.
When Maryland courts are called upon to hand down child custody orders or child custody modifications, their decisions are always guided by the best interests of the children, including factors like the following:
If you and your ex come to the mutual decision that you need a child custody modification and you are able to negotiate the terms between yourselves, the court is very likely to implement your modification. Simply agreeing between yourselves, however, has no legal bearing, and your original child custody orders will remain in effect, which can have serious legal implications. If, for example, your children’s other parent changes their mind and chooses to enforce the original child custody terms, the law will be on their side, and you could be found in contempt of court.
Your child custody rights are an important part of your parental rights, which makes them critical. Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford in Annapolis is a focused child custody attorney who recognizes how important your child custody orders are to you and your children and has the legal experience and insight to help. Learn more by reaching out and contacting or calling us at (410) 216-7905 today.