Best Interest Of The Child Checklist
During divorce proceedings, Maryland courts make child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests, but what does this mean? This article details what ‘best interests of the child’ means under the law, and if you have questions, our best interest attorney in Maryland at Shah & Kishore can help you.
What Best Interests Of The Child Means
Regardless of any agreement you reached with your ex about child custody, the courts will decide the matter by considering the child’s best interests, and they will look at many factors to make this determination. The checklist below includes some of the critical elements the courts will consider.
Who Was The Primary Caregiver?
During the marriage, who was the person who took care of the child the most? Specifically, who fed the child, shopped for clothing, got them ready for school, took them to daycare, bathed and read to them, etc.? Also, who would the child go to most often when they were hurt?
Physical And Mental Fitness
What is the physical and mental fitness of each party wanting child custody? The family court may consider any evidence of abuse against one of the parents or the child.
Length of Separation
How long the parent has been separated from the child is relevant to decide child custody. For example, if the mother has not been with the child in two years, the courts would consider this fact.
The financial resources of each parent also are relevant. For example, who can better provide material goods to the child?
The preference of the child is also considered. It is rare, but the family court can hear from children under 7; even a child as young as 5 could be heard. However, the child’s maturity and whether they understand the truth from fiction will guide the court’s decision.
A child who is 10 or 12 will have their opinions heard and be considered in child custody proceedings. Also, the court can appoint an attorney to represent the child if custody proceedings are contentious.
How close do the parents live to one another? Also, how close does each parent live to the child’s extended family? Which parent is nearest to the child’s school and their friends?
Maintaining Family Relationships
The court will consider which parent will help the child to maintain family relationships the most. For example, which parent would let the child speak to their ex-wife’s mother, and who would complicate it? Or, who is less likely to penalize the child if the other parent takes an action that they disagree with?
History Of Abandonment
Does either parent have a history of abandoning the family and leaving the other parent to deal with the home and children? Which parent left home when the split occurred?
Other factors that may be considered in the best interests of the child standard also are:
- Age, health, and gender of the child
- Child or parental disability
- The demand of each parent’s job
- Reputation and character of the parent who wants custody
Understanding Joint And Sole Custody In Maryland
Maryland has two kinds of child custody: legal and physical. In many cases, the parents will have joint legal custody of the children, but one parent also could have sole legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important life decisions for a child, including medical treatments, education, and religious upbringing. If you and your ex share legal custody, you both have rights to make major decisions for the child.
On the other hand, physical custody may be shared, or one parent could have sole physical custody, and the other gets visitation rights. Sole custody means one parent has physical custody and the other only has physical custody when exercising their visitation rights. For you to share physical custody, both parties must have at least 128 overnight visitations and contribute to child expenses.
Note: The court will consider the above factors when deciding physical and legal custody. However, the most critical factor in determining if joint legal custody is awarded is how well the parents can communicate and arrive at shared decisions that affect the child’s well-being. For example, if one parent is abusive or will not communicate with the other, the court may decide that the other party should have sole legal custody.
If you and your ex share custody, one party may still pay child support to the other. The courts will determine this using a mathematical calculation written in Maryland law.
Some of the factors that will be used to determine if someone pays child support are
- Gross income of each parent
- If the parents share physical custody
- How many overnight visits each parent has
- What the child’s expenses are, including daycare, health insurance, and medical costs
More Important Information About Child Custody
There have been times in the past when courts favor mothers in child custody hearings, but times have changed. The courts will consider the many factors listed in the above checklist to determine who gets custody. When you work with an experienced child custody attorney, you can be sure that you will be considered by the court to have sole custody if that is your desire.
Also, both parents must adhere to the guidelines of the child custody agreement. If your ex-husband gets sole custody, he cannot refuse your right to visit as the divorce agreement outlines. One parent cannot deny the other parent visitation rights because they are behind on child support payments.
Lastly, note that going to court is not the only way to deal with child custody issues. For example, some parents can partner with a mediator and write their own child custody agreement. In this situation, the parents may create a consent order, and the family court judge can sign it and make it legally enforceable.
Contact Our Best Interest Attorney In Maryland Today
All families are different, and so is every divorce involving children. Unfortunately, some child custody cases are challenging to resolve, but with the help of a child custody lawyer, you can achieve the best possible result. Contact our best interest attorney in Maryland at Shah & Kishore for help with your child custody case by dialing (301) 315-0001.