Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A.

Determining the best interests of the child: What courts consider

When it comes to deciding any question of child custody a Maryland court will not automatically seek to award custody to the mother. In fact, the court will default toward any decision that serves the best interests of the child.

Since the child is generally well-served when he or she can spend as much time as possible with both parents, courts may veer toward a joint parenting or co-parenting arrangement. However, if such an arrangement does not, for some reason, serve the child's best interests, the court will choose another strategy for divvying up child custody, parenting time and visitation rights.

How do courts decide the best interests of a child?

The best interests of a child may be subject to debate and dramatically differing opinions depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the children and parents. Here are a few issues that courts will take into account when deciding a child's best interests:

How able are both parents when it comes to providing for the essential needs of the child? Essential needs include shelter, clothing, medical care and food.

  • What are the mental and physical health histories of the parents?
  • How old is the child? What are the child's physical and mental health histories, and what is the sex of the child?
  • Is the child over 12 years of age and should the child's opinion about custody matter?
  • What is the nature of the emotional bond that exists between both parents and the child?
  • What are both parents' wishes?
  • Are both parents willing to support a relationship between the child and the other parent?
  • How much adjustment is required in the event that the child needs to move? For example, will the child need to adjust to a new school?
  • At what economic standard has the child grown accustomed to living?
  • Have either of the parents faced child abuse, sex abuse or domestic violence accusations in the past?
  • Did either parent direct false claims of abuse against the other parent?

A stable, loving home environment and past history of child care is key

When it comes to awarding full child custody to one or the other parent, Maryland courts will generally seek to award primary custody to the parent who has consistently provided care to the child. Being a parent who can provide a stable and loving home environment will also be a key factor that courts consider. If you are concerned that you may not receive child custody in your divorce, make sure you understand the most appropriate strategy for presenting your case in court.

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