Without the help of a Baltimore custody lawyer, you might lose valuable quality time with your children. During the uncertainty of a divorce or separation, your children need reassurance, love, and stability. Therefore, it’s vital that parents understand their rights. Learn more about how Maryland courts award and handle child custody issues below.
The Basics of Maryland’s Child Custody Law
When parents separate or divorce, they must address child custody issues. Technically, there are two components to child custody:
- Legal custody: the power to make important, long-term decisions about a child’s health, education, religious upbringing, and other issues, and
- Physical custody: the right to spend time with your child and make day-to-day decisions about his or her welfare.
Depending on your circumstances, you might request:
- Sole custody: only one parent has legal and physical custody,
- Split custody: in families with two or more children, each parent has sole custody of a different child,
- Joint legal custody: a child lives with one parent, but the parents make important decisions about his or her welfare together, and
- Shared physical custody: a child splits his or her time between the two parents’ residences (this may not be a 50/50 split).
While some parents can quickly agree to a custody arrangement, it is rarely that simple. And, due to the importance of parent-child relationships, custody disputes can quickly become combative. At James E. Crawford & Associates, we help parents resolve these disputes– both in and out of court.
How Do You Get Custody of a Child in Baltimore?
If you want custody of your child, you must follow a specific process. Depending on your circumstances, this might involve:
- Establishing legal paternity,
- Negotiating a parenting plan out of court,
- Filing a complaint for custody,
- Attending a co-parenting education program,
- Participating in court-ordered mediation,
- Undergoing a custody evaluation by a neutral, third party,
- Requesting a Baltimore Circuit Court hearing, and
- Attending the custody hearing and presenting evidence in support of your claim.
In Maryland, courts make child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests. This involves a series of factors, including:
- Who is your child’s primary caregiver?
- Are you mentally and physically capable of caring for your child?
- Is there evidence of domestic violence or child abuse?
- Can you maintain a civil relationship with your ex?
- Can you meet your child’s physical and emotional needs?
- Does your (age-appropriate) child have an opinion about the custody arrangement?
For this reason, you should always consult with a child custody lawyer before you file or respond to a complaint for custody. If you lash out angrily at your ex, you might lose your custody or visitation rights.
What If my Ex Violates our Custody Order?
If a parent violates a custody order, there are serious ramifications. If your ex refuses to return your child, you should contact them directly and demand your child. If this is unsuccessful, you should immediately contact law enforcement and your custody lawyer– your ex might face:
- Criminal charges, including:
- Child abuse, and
- Contempt of court, and
- Civil penalties, including a reduction or termination of his or her custody rights.
How Do You Change a Custody Arrangement?
Once a Baltimore court issues a custody order, it retains jurisdiction over the case until the child is an adult. You can always ask the court to modify your existing custody order if your circumstances change significantly. For example, you might modify your child custody arrangement if:
- A parent moves away from Baltimore and the current plan is impractical,
- A parent changes jobs or work schedules and cannot care for a child,
- An older child requests more or less time with a parent (for good reason),
- A parent’s disability seriously limits their ability to care for a child,
- A parent refuses to comply with the existing order, or
- There is evidence of child abuse.
Modifying a child custody order involves a detailed analysis of your changed circumstances and your child’s best interests. Baltimore judges value a child’s stability and you will have to present persuasive evidence supporting your claim. For these reasons, you should strongly consider hiring a custody lawyer.
Consult with a Baltimore Custody Lawyer
When you hire a custody lawyer at James E. Crawford & Associates, you will receive legal advice and strategies that are tailored to you and your child’s needs. We value your parenting time as much as you do– and will work tirelessly on your behalf. Call us today for a free and confidential custody evaluation.