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Maryland child custody law: Does it need to change?

In 2013, Maryland lawmakers organized a commission to determine whether state courts need to change the way they decide child custody cases. Over a period of 18 months, the commission convened to hear from family law lawyers, family court judges and mental-health workers to determine whether the current rules and legal practices lead to fair and appropriate family court decisions relating to child custody.

The commission issued its findings in 2014, and offered suggestions about how Maryland could improve its child custody decisions. As of 2018, the suggested legal reforms have yet to be made. This is largely because there is a great deal of disagreement, competing viewpoints and differing opinions about the findings of the commission and whether the suggestions are valid or appropriate.

As it stands, Maryland courts make "the best interests of the child or children" the deciding factor in any child custody rulings. Fathers' rights advocates, on the other hand, feel that -- in addition to considering the best interests of the children -- courts should approach all child custody disagreements with the presumption of joint custody. Advocates of presumption claim that joint custody, in the end, supports the best interests of children while treating the parents more fairly.

There is a great deal of disagreement surrounding efforts to establish the presumption of joint custody. Opponents to presumption state that such a one-size-fits-all approach could potentially undermine the current freedom of courts to protect the interests of children. Opponents to presumption want judges to have more discretion when deciding such matters.

The Maryland Legislature is looking at other considerations for child custody matters as well. If you have a particular concern about child custody -- or if you're currently in the throes of a child custody dispute -- you may want to familiarize yourself with the current family laws that apply to child custody and how they could potentially change in the future.

Source: Washington Post, "Maryland needs to bring its child custody policies into the 21st century," accessed April 05, 2018

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