As a parent, you want only the best for your child. No one wants to give up time with their children, and the idea of missing out on their lives is heartbreaking. If you are unmarried to your child’s other parent or filing for divorce, you probably have many questions and concerns about child custody and visitation in Baltimore, Maryland. Determining how to share custody can become a contentious topic in even the most amicable of divorces. You may be worried that your children will be taken away, or have concerns about your ex-partner’s ability to be a responsible parent.
Child custody is a very sensitive topic that requires a compassionate, experienced family law attorney. The Law Office of Ken C. Gauvey offers a confidential legal consultation, completely free of charge. With extensive experience representing parents in contentious divorce cases and custody disputes, our lawyers will do what is necessary to provide effective, aggressive representation. We represent mothers, fathers, grandparents, and legal guardians in custody matters in Baltimore, Maryland.
Types of Child Custody in Maryland
Custody arrangements can vary greatly depending on the relationship between the child’s parents. Every family’s unique situation will affect the process of determining custody and the outcome of the agreement. Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents, regarding their children, after a divorce, legal separation, or paternity decree. There are two independent types of custody—legal and physical.
Legal v. Physical Custody in Maryland
Legal custody is the authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf until he or she reaches the age of 18, at which point a teenager becomes a legal adult. Legal custody touches on many important aspects of development and child-rearing, including but not limited to medical care, religious activities, schooling and education, sports and extracurricular activities, summer camp, traveling and vacations, and other major parts of a child’s life. Physical custody is where the child physically lives for most of his or her time.
Sole v. Joint Custody in Maryland
The distinction can also be made between sole and joint custody. Both types of custody may be and often are shared by the parents. However, it is typical practice to establish one parent as having primary custody—the “custodial” parent. A parent with sole custody is known as the custodial parent, and he or she alone holds the child’s physical and legal rights. The non-custodial parent, meaning the parent without custody, maintains a parent-child relationship through visitation rights.
Custody v. Visitation in Maryland
If a parent is deemed unfit or unwilling to share in legal or physical custody of the child, they can usually be granted visitation rights. Visitation rights allow the non-custodial parent (the person without child custody) a scheduled time to spend with their child. Child visitation schedules can be set either by the court or left to the parents to agree upon. Generally, a parent with only visitation rights is not entitled to participate in making important decisions (i.e., does not have legal custody rights) regarding the child.
How is Child Custody Determined in Maryland?
Custody decisions usually come down to the ultimate issue of what is in the best interest of the child? There is a long list of factors that will come into play when making this decision. Among many others, a judge will consider the mental and physical health of the child and parents; the ability of each parent to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child; the child’s personal preference (depending on the child’s age); and the ability of the parents to effectively communicate and co-parent. Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, felony convictions, drug addiction, alcoholism, restraining order violations, or other factors that could potentially endanger the child or destabilize the child’s living environment will come into play as well.
If you are involved in a divorce, custody dispute or paternity action, it is essential to consult an attorney who is knowledgeable in family law. Since these laws are complicated and can vary from state to state, hiring an attorney with experience resolving child custody disputes can give you the best possible chance of reaching a successful resolution.
Ultimately, a family court will not grant custody if doing so would be harmful or detrimental to the child’s welfare and overall quality of life. Child custody mediation can save parents, and all involved in this most unfortunate of disputes, much in the way of time, money and added emotional distress. In these matters, a professional mediation attorney or mediator, an individual who is completely neutral to either side involved in the disagreement at hand, will hear out both parties and will attempt to come to a mutual agreement that benefits everyone involved. There are many benefits to mediation, so it is in the best interest of all parties to contact a Maryland family attorney to see if this an option for your case.
Contact an Experienced Baltimore Child Custody Attorney
Filing for divorce and fighting for child custody are extremely difficult and emotional experiences. Baltimore child custody lawyer Ken Gauvey can help through both your divorce and custody battle. We encourage you to contact our law offices for immediate assistance if you have questions about how to obtain custody, how to keep custody, how to maximize parenting time, how to handle an uncooperative ex-spouse, or any other aspects of child custody laws in Baltimore, Maryland. 443-692-7685 today for a free consultation on your Maryland child custody case.