How Child Custody is Determined
There is no set formula for determining which parent will retain custody of a minor child after a divorce or separation. In Maryland, divorce law mandates that the judge consider the totality of circumstances to determine which custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Since every family is unique, child custody is determined on a case-by-case basis. When you meet with your family lawyer serving La Plata, he or she can help you understand how this decision might be made. You can expect your family lawyer to ask you about your preferred child custody arrangement and any factors that may influence the judge’s decision, such as the following.
A child’s biological parents are presumed to be his or her best caregivers. However, certain circumstances may undermine parental fitness. Inform your family lawyer if the other parent has a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, severe mental illness, or household instability. It can be difficult to prove that a parent is unfit to care for a child. However, your divorce lawyer may use your ex’s history of psychological or other problems to argue that you are more capable of being the custodial parent than your ex.
Family court judges can consider which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver prior to making a child custody decision. The primary caregiver of a child is the parent who has been responsible for bringing the child to medical appointments, preparing the child’s meals, purchasing school clothes, arranging child care, and taking care of the child’s other needs. One way your family lawyer might prove that you have been the child’s primary caregiver is by showing receipts for medical visits and school clothes.
Judges are strongly inclined to award custody to the parent who has displayed a willingness to preserve the child’s relationships with other family members. For example, the ideal custodial parent refrains from making derogatory comments about the other parent in front of the child. The custodial parent might also be the individual who brings the child to visits with relatives outside the household.