One of the most important issues any parent will have to consider after a divorce or separation is child custody. Not only is this a highly personal and emotional topic for parents, but it is often the source of some of the most fierce conflicts, both in and out of court. The Maryland legal system recognizes this potential, which is why they have established rules of procedure to try to minimize conflict between parents. The system also tries to encourage cooperation amongst the parents to achieve a child custody and visitation arrangement that can accommodate both parents’ rights to play an active role in raising their children.
Unless there is a very strong reason to deny parents shared legal custody, such as a history of abuse, debilitating substance use or addiction, insanity or incarceration, both parents are entitled to an equal say in how a child is to be raised. Under shared legal custody, neither parent’s rights are superior to the other, so when areas of disagreement arise, the court must intervene with a solution to the problem.
In all Maryland family law cases involving child custody disputes, before the court will intervene, the parents will most likely be required to attend mediation to work out their issues. If mediation doesn’t result in an agreement on a parenting plan, physical custody agreement and other central issues, the court may schedule a pretrial conference, in which the parents will meet with the judge and discuss a possible settlement. If issues still remain and an agreement cannot be reached, the next step may be a trial on the outstanding issues.
In addition to these mandatory steps to reaching a child custody agreement, the court may also order the parents to attend parenting and conflict resolution classes, require a custody evaluation, and in high conflict cases, may use a parenting coordination process to try to reduce the level of harmful conflict.
The child custody determination process can be complex and emotional, which is why people should enlist the help of an experienced Maryland attorney at every step of the process.
Source: Maryland Courts, “Child Custody,” accessed Aug. 16, 2014