Child Custody in Maryland
These are the factors that the court often considers when determining custody. They look at all of these factors through the lens of “what is in the best interest of the child”.
- fitness of parents
- character and reputation of parties
- the desire of parents and agreements between parties
- the potential of maintaining natural family relations
- preference of the child
- material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
- age, health, and sex of the child
- residences of the parents and opportunities for visitation, or geographic proximity of parental homes
- length of the child’s separation from a parent
- prior voluntary abandonment or surrender.
The material opportunites factor does not mean that a parent who is poor or otherwise not able to provide as many of the comforts of life as the other parent is not to be granted custody. This factor is not so significant absent related facts showing parental unfitness, such as a child not being properly taken care of by its parents within their means or where the financial situation (e.g., parent unable to hold down a job) has made the custodial situation completely unstable.
When looking at joint custody, the court looks at additional factors including;
- the capacity of parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare
- the willingness of parents to share custody
- the relationship between the child and each parent
- potential disruption of the child’s social and school life
- demands of parental employment
- the sincerity of parent’s request
- the financial status of parents
- benefit to parents
A judge will consider all the above factors in weighing their decision regarding custody. There is a lot of discretion a judge has in considering the factors and the outcome depends on which judge hears your case. An attorney arguing your case will likely find prior cases at the appellate level that mirror your case both in facts and the desired outcome. Judges are required to rule based on prior case law.