In Maryland there are two types of custody that are important for parents to determine regarding their children when the parents do not live together. There is joint legal custody and shared physical custody, and it is important to know the difference between them if you desire to share the custody of your children with the other parent. Here, the Maryland divorce and child custody attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss tips and information for recently divorced or separated parents as it relates to joint custody of their children.

Understand Joint Custody Laws in Maryland

First, it is important to understand the difference between legal custody and physical custody of a child. When parents have joint legal custody of their children, this means that both parents have equal responsibility and authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf, regarding education, medical choices and religion. When a parent is awarded sole legal custody, they are the only party that has the authority to make these decisions for the child. The parties could also have joint legal custody with tie-breaking authority to one parent where the parents still must attempt to make joint decisions but one parent can make the final decision if the parties disagree.

Shared physical custody is where the children have a shared custody schedule and spend time residing with both parents.  Currently in Maryland, a parent is considered to have shared physical custody for the determination of child support if they have at least 35% or 128 overnights per year with their children. For new cases filed on or after October 1, 2020 the shared custody threshold for child support purposes is reduced to at least 25% or 92 overnights per year.

Consider How Joint Custody Impacts Communication for Ex-Spouses

Joint custody requires planning and frequent communication on the part of both parents, and after a divorce, communication may suffer. When seeking joint custody, it can be beneficial if you and the other party can create a schedule for custody and care of the children. Not only may this help reduce tension between the parties, but it can also provide comfort and stability for your children as they navigate the complexities and changes that come with parents who live apart. 

Listen to Your Children’s Wants and Concerns About Custody Arrangements

Joint custody agreements are not always possible or appropriate in every case, but are meant to help guide children through the remainder of their formative years with as much ease as possible. It also assures that your children are able to have involvement and relationships with both parents, and vice versa.  As a parent, you want what is best for your children, and as they age, their priorities, passions and preferences may change. Being willing to keep healthy and open communication with the other parent, with the best interests of your children in mind, is essential for joint custody to work.