In a divorce with children, one of the most common areas of dispute and conflict is the issue of child custody. Both parents typically want to continue to have a meaningful and significant relationship with their children after a divorce, but sometimes even well-intended parents can disagree about what constitutes the best interests of the child.
When a Maryland court is forced to make this crucial decision, the judge has a lot of leeway in determining the best interests of the child standard as applied to the case at issue. Understanding that every case is unique, the court is not held to strict guidelines when imposing child custody and visitation orders. Rather, the judge draws from case law and statutes in order to reach what he or she believes is the most appropriate conclusion on the sole or joint custody of a child.
Since 1986, the court has considered the following main factors, which are listed roughly in order of those carrying the most weight. These factors include the ability of the parents to communicate with one another and settle upon decisions that affect the child’s welfare, the willingness of each parent to share custody, the fitness of the parents, the child’s relationship with each parent, what type of custody arrangement the child would prefer, any possible disruption to the child’s life in terms of schooling and social activities, how near the child lives to each parent’s home, the parent’s career obligations, the age and the number of children involved and several other similar factors.
Clearly, the court makes a decision that will give the child the best opportunity to continue or foster a meaningful relationship with each parent. The court will often strongly consider each parent’s ability to maintain communication with the other parent as to issues affecting the child, as well as each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship with the other parent.
Of course, how the courts weigh certain evidence is always unique, so parents need the help of experienced Maryland family law attorney to make their best case for child custody to the court.
Source: Maryland Courts, “Child Custody/Visitation,” accessed Nov. 22, 2014