If you are a parent, nothing matters more to you than your children. When you are divorcing or ending a relationship with your children’s other parent, the issue of child custody is naturally foremost in your mind. You may have questions like: How much time will I have with our children? How involved will I be in the decisions that shape their lives? How will my relationship with them change?
At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we understand these issues because we are attorneys, and we are also parents. As parents, we understand and share your concerns for your children’s well-being. As experienced family law attorneys, we are committed to doing everything possible to achieve a favorable outcome in your child custody matter.
When discussing child custody in Maryland, it is important to distinguish between the two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody, also known as residential custody or the access schedule, refers to the amount of time the children spend with each parent on a regular basis. Physical custody can be granted primarily to one parent, but is often shared, though not necessarily equally. In all events, the court has substantial discretion to fashion a physical custody arrangement that promotes the children’s well-being.
Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions regarding your children, such as where they will go to school, what medical care they will receive, and in what religion, if any, they will be raised. Similar to physical custody, legal custody may be sole or joint, and the courts have the authority to fashion multiple forms of legal custody arrangements.
No one understands what your family needs like you do. That is why, if at all possible, it is ideal for you and your children’s other parent to agree on a legal custody and time-sharing arrangement that works for you and your children. This is referred to as a parenting, or custody, agreement. A custody agreement allows you to devise creative solutions that a judge may not have the power (or inclination) to order, and often yields an arrangement both parents may follow more willingly.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, either on your own or with the help of your attorneys, the court will decide the custody arrangement for the family. Determinations regarding physical and legal custody are made at a Custody Merits Trial, and are based on a standard known as “the best interests of the child.” To determine what may be in the best interests of the child during a custody dispute, the court will consider such factors as:
While at one time it was more common for mothers to be granted custody, the gender of a parent is no longer an allowed consideration when a court decides what is in the best interests of the children. Since the law has no automatic preference for one parent, all parents need to make sure they have an experienced custody attorney presenting evidence to the court that will portray their position in the most favorable light.
Unfortunately, child custody matters can become contentious even under ordinary circumstances. However, when complicating factors are presented, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, questions regarding the fitness of one or both parents, relocation of a parent to another state or country, or special needs of the children, it is critical that you have an experienced advocate to guide you and to represent you in court, if needed. Your attorney must understand all of the unique circumstances of your case, have detailed knowledge of how the courts work and view particular custody issues and must have detailed knowledge of the applicable law.
Our attorneys have decades of experience in handling Maryland custody matters involving complex issues, including interstate and international custody as well as relocation issues. When necessary, we will also involve outside professionals such as therapists and custody evaluators as needed to support your goals and strengthen your custody position.
We understand the stress and challenges of a custody dispute. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we combine extensive experience in divorce and custody matters with a strategic, analytical approach to achieving our clients’ goals. We are equally at ease helping our clients negotiate a custody arrangement designed for their unique needs and advocating for them at trial if necessary.
We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns and learn how we can help you with your custody matter.