Types of Custody and How Maryland Courts Establish Co-Parenting

If you and your ex-spouse have decided to file for joint custody, it’s important to understand how the court will establish it. Below, the attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the various types of court-ordered custody and how Maryland courts establish custody rights to co-parents. 


Different Types of Custody Rights in Maryland

In the state of Maryland, both parents are equal custodians of their children in the eyes of the law; one parent is not favored over another. However, if the two parties cannot agree about custody rights, there are different types of custody arrangements that the courts can grant. While there are two main categories of custody in Maryland, legal custody and physical custody, there are a number of options available to the Court in determining legal custody as well as the physical custody schedule of parenting time and access depending on the unique circumstances of each case.  Here is a brief, general overview:


Legal Custody

Legal Custody concerns legal decision-making regarding the child. This includes the right of parents to determine a child’s religious upbringing, education, disciplinary actions, medical treatment and any other major welfare decisions, which are to be made in the child’s best interest. Legal Custody can be joint, sole to one parent, joint with tie-breaking authority to one or both parents, as well as subject to other specifications.


Joint Legal Custody 

Under a Joint legal custody arrangement,  both parents are responsible for working together in the upbringing of the child. You and your ex-spouse  are expected to make joint decisions with regard to the education, religion, and medical care of the child. Your child may permanently reside with one parent, but both parents are equally responsible for decision-making on legal custodial issues. In specific cases, however, one parent may be granted the authority to make decisions in the child’s best interest (i.e. tie-breaker).  Legal custody does not generally concern day-to-day or household decisions such as bedtimes, activities, discipline, diet (unless medical concerns exist), etc. 


Sole Legal Custody

If one party has sole legal custody, he or she is tasked with and can make unilateral decisions concerning the legal custody (education, religion, medical, etc.) of the minor child. 


Physical Custody

Physical custody concerns the physical schedule of parenting time and access shared between the parents as well as decisions regarding day-to-day or household concerns such as bedtimes, activities, discipline, diet (unless medical concerns exist), etc. 


Shared Physical Custody 

With shared physical custody each party has substantial parenting time and access (typically no less than 35% of the year), and the child typically spends time residing at both parties’ residences.


Sole/Primary Physical Custody

Sole custody can be granted to one parent, so that the minor child resides primarily with that parent and visits, or as we now say spends parenting time and access, with the other party.  It is also possible that the child may spend no, or limited, or even supervised time, with the other party circumstances permitting.  


Factors Courts Consider When Granting Custody 

The court is tasked with evaluating custody, legal and physical, based on the standard  of what is in the best interest of the child.  Maryland does not have a custodial statue that breaks down the factors considered by the Court in making this decision as of the date of this article.  The factors considered by the Court are embedded in Maryland case law.  Some factors courts consider when granting custody:


Primary Caregiver 

Courts will look at which parent takes care of the child, including providing meals, clothes, arranging morning and evening routines and who the child will go to in times of need. 


Ability to Maintain Healthy Family Relationships

Because your child is about to endure a major adjustment, the court is going to look at which parent is likely to help the child sustain relationships with other family members. The court will consider which parent is likely to maintain stability, regardless of the circumstance. 


There are multiple other factors that judges will consider when determining custody to parents, but the wellbeing of the child is always prioritized in the decision-making process. 


Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a written agreement that outlines how each parent will care for and make choices regarding their child. Creating a thorough and detailed plan will demonstrate to the court that you and your ex-spouse are trying to create structure for your child regardless of the circumstances.  There is a court-form, which is required in most circumstances to be submitted well in advance of trial in contested custody matters  https://mdcourts.gov/family/parentingplans.  Your attorney can also assist you in crafting a custom custody agreement, which may be part of your separation agreement or a stand-alone document, which will satisfy, and often be more comprehensive and better suit your families’ unique needs.  


Consult the Child Custody Attorneys at Rodier Family Today If You Are Seeking Custody – Joint, Sole or otherwise

Rodier Family Law’s child custody lawyers in Bel Air recognize that, when it comes to your child custody arrangements, you need the best representation and advice possible in order to get a favorable outcome. Speak to a compassionate and dedicated member of our team today by calling (410) 803-1839. You can also request that a member of our team contact you to schedule a one-hour consultation by filling out a form here.