Yelling. Silence. Tears. Divorce papers. When you find your “happily ever after” turning into disaster, things can get messy. 

As you start dividing up what is left of your marriage, your thoughts may turn to your children: Who should get custody? Can you agree on a form of joint custody? How does that even work?

As any skilled Maryland divorce lawyer will tell you, Maryland has two separate types of custody:

  • Legal custody refers to life decisions regarding the child’s future, such as education, religious upbringing, and medical care.
  • Physical custody determines where the child lives and who handles the day-to-day activities and decisions. Physical custody is based on several factors including:
    • How sincere the parent appears to be in his or her desire to raise the child
    • The parent’s job commitment and available time for the child
    • The parent’s financial stability
    • The parent’s character references
    • The number of other family members in the house and cohesiveness of their relationships
    • How well the child and parent get along
    • The child’s preference, if old enough to decide
    • Where the parent lives in relation to the child’s school (i.e., any disruption that could be caused by a move or joint custody)
    • How close the natural parents live to each other and how feasible it is to have joint custody
    • Whether one of the parents has ever voluntarily given up custody or abandoned the child
    • Any previous agreements the parents have made regarding the child’s living situation

How does joint custody in Maryland work?

Because each family is different, child custody in Maryland rarely looks the same for any two families. There is no set formula for determining who gets custody or how much. Judges are given extensive freedom to look at each case and decide on an agreeable living arrangement for each family. 

The judge’s goal is simple: to determine what is in the best interest of the child. This is largely subjective, and it is up to your Maryland family lawyer to argue your position persuasively.

When seeking joint custody, the parents’ ability to compromise and work together in making major decisions regarding their child’s future is especially important. The judge also may look at how amiable the divorce is, as that might affect how well the parents can truly share custody of the child.

If you are going through a divorce, don’t let your child be an afterthought. Talk to an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer at 1-800-875-9700 to see how you can make this difficult time easier on your children and better for their future.