Whenever a couple goes through a divorce or separation, child custody often becomes a key issue. Child custody arrangements are handled by the courts when a couple cannot come to a favorable agreement. The courts take multiple factors into consideration when determining custody, especially when the couple is filing a divorce. However, unmarried parents go through a slightly different process.
Maryland law considers the child’s natural parents as the presumed custodians. Either parent can petition the court for sole or partial custody of the child, but the court arranges an agreement in the best interest of the child. The judge examines the primary care giver of the child, the fitness of both parents, the child’s preference if the child is old enough, and the financial background of each parent.
Judges grant custody arrangements based on their evaluation of the child and family. Temporary custody orders grant custody to one of the parents prior to a final order. Legal and physical custody refers to the custodian’s authority to make life decisions for the child and how they are to spend time with the child. Legal and physical custody can be shared.
Sole custody can be legal or physical. In sole custody, one parent reserves guardianship over a child. Split custody is for families with multiple children. Custody of both children is split between parents; one parent reserves guardianship over each child. Joint custody means both parents have legal or physical custody of the child. Children split their time between two residences and both parents make lifestyle decisions for the child.
If an unmarried couple is seeking a custody arrangement, a family court judge will handle the dispute. Unmarried couples have the same options as married couples regarding custody arrangements: physical, legal, joint, and split. However, courts give equal weight to married parents; either the mother or father can become the primary caregiver.
Things are slightly different for unmarried couples. Judges often rule in favor of the mother. In fact, unmarried fathers are rarely granted full custody unless the mother is unfit. The judge will determine the primary care giver based on several factors and decide the custody agreement. Unlike married couples, unmarried couples do not have financial issues other than child support to be litigated. If the couple has an arrangement in place, the judge will take that into consideration. Custody disputes for unmarried couples often take less time to litigate than custody for married couples.
During a divorce, a lawyer, mediator, or judge will help the couple reach a custody agreement. A lawyer helps a couple draft informal settlement negotiations and a mediator assists couples with an agreement during a mediation. If the couple decides to proceed to litigation, a judge will make the final decision.
Custody Agreements for Third-Parties
Additional parties, such as grandparents and siblings, can petition for custody of a child as a third-party. These family members must file a petition with the courts that will be sent to the child’s parents. The petition states the party’s relationship to the child, parents’ whereabouts, and the reasoning behind a custody petition. In Maryland, these petitions are rarely granted over the objection of the parents.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help You Fight for Custody
Our Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC are committed to helping you resolve child custody disputes. We can help you with informal settlement negotiations, arbitration, and litigation. Call us at (443)-589-0150 to schedule a free consultation or complete the convenient online form on our website today.