Maryland Maryland

Child Custody Law

Child Custody General Information - What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.

Child custody cases in Maryland can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:

  • Where the child lives (physical custody)
  • Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
  • How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged

This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Maryland court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.

Maryland Child Custody Law Summary

After a breakup or divorce in Maryland, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.

Some of the factors considered by Maryland in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence.

How Does the Court Make a Decision for Custody?

In an action in which custody, visitation rights, or the amount of support of a minor child is contested, the court may:

  • appoint a lawyer who will represent the child and who may not represent any party to the action

  • hire a lawyer who shall represent the child's best interests, not representing either party

  • impose counsel fees against one or more parties

In a custody or visitation proceeding, the court will make considerations from the following:

  • the other parent of the child

  • the spouse

  • any child residing within the household, not just the child in subject

If the court finds that a party has committed abuse against the other parent of the party’s child, the party’s spouse, or any child residing within the party’s household, the court shall make arrangements for custody or visitation that best protect:

(1) the child who is the subject of the proceeding

(2) the victim of the abuse.

If one or both parents of a minor child is an unemancipated minor, the parents of that minor parent are jointly and severally responsible for any child support for a grandchild that is a recipient of temporary cash assistance to the extent that the minor parent has insufficient financial resources to fulfill the child support responsibility of the minor parent.

If the parents live apart, a court may award custody of a minor child to either parent or joint custody to both parents

Maryland Child Custody Factors - How Is Child Custody Decided In Maryland?

If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Maryland judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".

In the state of Maryland, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Maryland's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.

Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Maryland?

Maryland does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.

Do judges in the state of Maryland favor joint custody?

Judges in Maryland are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.

Courts in Maryland do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do Maryland courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?

It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.

Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Maryland?

In Maryland, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.

Do Maryland courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?

Maryland has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.

Do the courts in the state of Maryland have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?

Maryland has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.

| State Law Official Text

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