How is child custody determined?
Parents may work together to determine custody of their children. This is generally done before the divorce is final. That determination may also be made by a judge in a court of law during divorce proceedings.
The best interests of the affected children will be the priority when a judge makes any child custody or child visitation decisions. Other factors considered include:
- The gender, health, and age of the child
- Who the main caregiver is for that child
- Any disabilities that one or both parents and their children may have
- Whether or not a child custody agreement is already in place
- The religious views of the parents
- Which parent is able to provide more for their child financially
- The physical and psychological abilities of each party that is asking for custody
- How close the parents live to one another
- The possibilities for child visitation
- How the child will be able to sustain relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members
One or both parents or guardians may be granted sole or joint custody of a child in a divorce case. If a couple has more than one child together, the custody of those children may be split. One parent would be awarded custody of one or more children, and the other parent would be given custody of the other children. Custody arrangements can be temporary (for a certain number of months or years) or permanent until a child reaches 18 years old, which is the age that a person is viewed as an adult in the state of Maryland.
What is legal custody of a child?
A person who has been granted legal custody of a child is allowed to make long-term plans and decisions for that minor. The legal custodian can decide what school the child goes to, their religious background, non-emergency medical care, and how the minor should be disciplined.
What is physical custody of a child?
Physical custody of a minor is usually given to a parent, grandparent or other parental figure. The affected child will live at the physical custodian’s residence until they turn legal age or until a time that is specified in a court order has expired.
Who can make major decisions for a child during a divorce?
One or both parents may be able to make decisions regarding their children’s education, religious training, medical care and other issues. A parent’s rights to make those choices may be limited if they have not been named as the child’s legal or physical custodian.
Will I need a parenting plan?
A parenting plan isn’t always required. However, it can make things easier for both partners. If a couple is getting divorced and has minor children, the court will usually mandate a parenting plan before the divorce can be awarded.
Parenting plans are cooperative efforts. It may take some time for partners to work together on a parenting plan that satisfies the court’s requirements and does not put a child or a spouse at a disadvantage. You won’t accomplish everything in the first draft, and that’s okay. It will probably take several attempts before a reasonable parenting plan is developed.
The parenting plan should be presented in court during the divorce proceedings. It may be attached to your alimony, child custody, child visitation and marital settlement agreement paperwork. The judge will review the documentation to ensure that everything is in order and lawful.
How is child visitation determined?
Couples can make their own child visitation arrangements before getting a divorce. That schedule should be submitted with their marital settlement agreement to the court. If partners cannot agree on child visitation, those arrangements will be decided by the judge.
Can custody arrangements be changed?
Child custody arrangements are never set in stone. One or both parties may need an adjustment due to a change in schedule, incarceration of one parent or other legitimate reasons. A person can’t just arbitrarily change a parenting plan on a whim.
A parent can petition the court for any changes to the custody arrangement that they wish to make. The petition to modify the court order should be in writing. Both parties should receive a copy of this request.
When can a child decide which parent they want to live with?
Courts will listen to a child’s preference as to which parent they prefer living with once that child reaches 16 years of age. The child can then petition the court at that time to have their custody agreement changed if they want to live with the other parent who does not currently have physical or legal custodianship of them.
Why is co-parenting important during a divorce?
Even if you no longer like your former partner, it’s utterly important to make every effort to develop an effective co-parenting plan. Children need to know that it’s okay to talk to their parents if they’re having problems at school, dealing with a bully or other concerns. They should be able to turn to either parent whenever they need to.
Children are usually much more observant than parents may think. They pick up on actions and behaviors that could signify that the marriage is in rough shape. No matter what happens, it’s a good idea to communicate with your children before and during the divorce. They should know that the end of their marriage is not their fault and that their parents will continue to love them and want the very best for them.
If you have questions about parental rights, child custody or child visitation before your divorce has been finalized, we can help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. Our experienced professionals will sit down with you and listen to what you have to say. They will provide valuable insight and recommend possible next steps. A member of our attorney team can even represent you in court if you want.
Our goal is to help you get back on track again as soon as possible. Divorce is never easy. It can change personal relationships forever. There is also a negative stigma that’s often associated with divorce, even if the decision to end the marriage was mutual. It may take some time, but you’ll probably back to enjoying life again before you know it.