Child custody and visitation in Maryland

For parents in Maryland who are legally separated or divorced, child custody matters are often a chief concern. In all states, including Maryland, child custody matters are determined based upon what the family law court deems to be in the best interest of a child. Therefore, the courts will take numerous factors into consideration when determining matters related to custody and visitation of a minor child.

A Maryland family court may decide to award one parent sole custody or both parents joint custody. While state law does not require a court to consider awarding joint child custody, it's often considered as an option and a judge is likely to award joint custody in cases where both parents agree it's the best option for their family.

In cases where parents are not able to agree upon custody terms, family courts must look at several factors when considering child custody. A child's age, gender, relationship with each parent as well as each parent's physical, emotional and mental health must be considered. Additionally, each parent's capacity to provide for a child's safety, education and basic and higher emotional needs are also taken into account.

In cases where sole custody is provided to one parent, barring a history of domestic violence or abuse, the other parent is typically awarded visitation rights. A parenting agreement helps outline the terms of a non-custodial parent's visitation rights. In cases where parents are not able to agree upon a scheduled visitation plan or general access to a child, the court may intervene and dictate the terms of visitation with regard to the date, time and location of such visits.

In cases where either parent has failed to honor the terms of a child custody or visitation order, legal action may be taken to enforce or modify an existing order. Again, the court will keep the best of interests of a child in mind when considering any changes to an existing child custody or visitation order and the parent who filed a petition for modification must present compelling evidence for any petition to even be considered.

Source: Children's Rights Council, "Requirements and Interpretations for the State of Maryland," 2014