How Is Child Custody Determined in Maryland?
Like other states, Maryland courts will decide child custody and parenting time based on what the judge sees is the best interest of the child.
In other words, the most important priority for the judge will be the child’s well-being, even over and above the wishes of either parent.
Again like other states, Maryland recognizes two types of child custody. Legal custody is the power of a parent to make decisions on the child’s behalf about certain very important topics, like healthcare, religion and education.
Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with most of the time.
Courts can award joint legal custody, meaning both parents have to agree on important decisions about their children. Sole legal custody means only parent has ultimate authority, but the other parent may still have to be informed and consulted.
Physical custody can also be awarded jointly, and this will mean that the child will spend a lot of time with both parents, although the time need not be 50-50. When only one parent has physical custody, then the other parent will in most cases still have the right to contact and see the child, even overnight, for specified periods.
The courts of Maryland will expect parents to submit a parenting plan which spells out each parent’s rights and responsibilities. The plan would have a schedule and also set out joint custody and physical custody.
Although parents cannot be forced to agree on a parenting plan, the court will in the vast majority of cases expect them to make a meaningful effort to agree on one before asking for a contested custody trial.
In a custody trial, the court will hear both sides and then apply Maryland law so as to come up with a parenting plan that both parents will have to follow.