The decision to divorce is one of the most difficult a person can make. When children are involved, the decision to exit an unhappy marriage can be even harder.
Child custody is one of the top concerns for many parents contemplating divorce. There is a common misperception that mothers are always granted child custody in divorce. That is not always the case.
Factors in Maryland child custody determinations
Maryland courts determine child custody arrangements based on the child’s best interests. This determination is subjective and courts take a variety of factors into consideration, including:
- The child’s wishes
- Parents’ preferences
- Adultery in the marriage
- The type and severity of disagreements between the parents
- The housing situation of each parent
- If a child was abandoned or surrendered by a parent
- Material advantages
- Fitness of the parents
Joint custody arrangements
Sometimes a court will determine that joint custody is in the best interests of a child. Joint custody is usually only awarded in situations where the parents can cooperate well in making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
Joint custody determinations are based on multiple factors, including parents’ ability to communicate with each other and share custody, the fitness of the parents, nature of the parent-child relationship, and whether the arrangement would have a detrimental impact on the child, among other things.
The visitation rights of other parties
In determining child custody, courts in Maryland focus primarily on the best interests of a child in relation to the child’s parents. However, there are cases in which nonparents may be granted visitation rights.
Grandparent visitation is warranted in some cases, but it is not a constitutional guarantee in the state. Grandparents must generally show that a parent is unfit or that other exceptional circumstances exist to be awarded visitation or custody rights. This is because a parent who is awarded custody is generally assumed to be acting in the best interests of a child when denying visitation to grandparents.
In other cases, a longtim e partner of a parent becomes a “de facto” parent for a child, but never adopts the child. In Maryland, “de facto” parents aren’t recognized, but third-party visitation is sometimes permitted in cases where a natural parent is unfit or other exceptional circumstances exist.
How a family law attorney can help
It is crucial to visit an experienced family law attorney when contemplating divorce, particularly when children are involved. A family law attorney can determine the best way to proceed with a divorce given the particular circumstances of your marriage. In cases where joint custody is appropriate, an attorney can help ensure that the best interests of your child are clearly stated to the court making a determination.