In Maryland there are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the ability of a parent to make major decisions in his or her child’s life, such as medical and educational issues. A parent can have either sole legal custody or joint legal custody. Physical custody concerns overnight access with each parent. If the child primarily resides with one parent then that parent has primary physical custody of the child. Parties can have shared physical custody of their children if the non-custodial parent has 128 or more overnights with the children. The effect of having 128 or more overnights is that child support decreases as the non-custodial parent is spending more time with the child. In making a determination as to who should be awarded custody of a child the Court considers the best interests of the child.

In determining custody, the court is also to consider the following:

  1.  The fitness of the parties,
  2.  The character and reputation of the parties,
  3.  The desire of the natural parents and the content of any agreement between them,
  4.  The potentiality of maintaining natural family relations,
  5.  The preference of the child, at least when the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational judgment,
  6.  Any material opportunities affecting the future life of the child,
  7.  The age, health and sex of the child,
  8.  The suitability of the residences of the parents, and whether the non-custodial parent will have adequate opportunities for visitation,
  9.  How long the child has been separated from a natural parent who is seeking custody,
  10.  The effect of any prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of custody of the child,
  11.  The bottom line in child custody cases remains “the best interests of the child”

For cases involving joint custody, the court must also take into consideration:

  1. Willingness of each parent to share custody,
  2. Psychological and physical “fitness” of each parent,
  3. Strength of relationship of child to each parent,
  4. Potential disruption of shared physical custody upon child’s social and school life,
  5. Geographic proximity of parents’ homes,
  6. Demands of parental employment,
  7. Age and number of children involved,
  8. Sincerity (motivation) of parent’s requests,
  9. Financial status of parents,
  10. Impact on state or federal assistance,
  11. Benefit to parents,
  12. Any other factors the Court believes would help determine the best interests of the child.

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