Legal proceedings involving custody of the children are the most contentious and often may result in irreparable emotional turmoil for the whole family. While it is certainly best to attempt an amicable resolution to the issue of custody and visitation because parents are the most qualified to make those decisions on behalf of their children, sometimes this just may not be possible due to the degree of conflict and inability of the parties to productively communicate,. In those cases, decisions regarding the future of your children will be left to a Court. However, whether decisions are made by the parents themselves or by a court, the best interest of the children is always the primary consideration and all decisions are grounded in that analysis.
What Factors Are Considered When Awarding Custody
The Court will look at a number of factors to determine which custody arrangement will be in the children’s best interest. Determination of custody and visitation is grounded in an analysis of the children’s stability, safety, and emotional well being. To make a final determination of custody the court will consider the following factors:
- The child’s primary care giver
- The fitness of each parent to be a primary or shared caretaker of the children
- Character and reputation evidence presented by each parent
- The child’s wishes (level of weight for the preference expressed varies with the age of the child).
- The parents’ ability to cultivate a nurturing relationship with the child, others in the community, and extended family
- Evidence pertaining to abuse, neglect, or violence
- Physical and emotional stability of either parent
- Other factors that may be unique or specific as applicable to each individual matter
What is Legal Child Custody vs. Physical Child Custody
There are two main types of custody, specifically legal and physical. Legal custody in Maryland implies authority over decisions involving the child’s health, education, religion and all important matters that are vital for the child’s overall health, safety and development. Physical custody in Maryland refers to the where the child will live, with whom and which parent will make the daily decisions for the child’s daily needs.
If the parents cannot agree on these issues, then a Court may order physical and legal custody in various ways. The Court may award sole physical custody to one parent and determine that joint legal custody to both parents is in the Children’s best interest. In the alternative, the Court may rule that shared physical custody but sole legal custody to one parent is best. In many circumstances the Court tries to award shared physical and joint legal custody whenever possible. However, this option is seldom available when the parties are unable to co-parent collaboratively. Determining what makes the most sense for your family based upon your unique dynamics is of the utmost importance. At ZM Law Group we work with you to analyze and identify your needs, aspirations and plans for your children and we arm you with the tools and information you need as you move forward in the process. We ensure that you are in the best position possible to achieve your ultimate goal through this process.