In Maryland, the law presumes that both parents are the natural custodians of their children. Consequently, the laws in the state do not favor one parent over the other when it comes to child custody. However, there are factors that play into a court’s custody decision that can affect a parent’s ability to get custody. To learn more about these factors, the following guide will provide you with detailed information on how child custody works in Maryland, how judges make custody decisions, and whether a parenting plan is necessary. 

happy mom and daughter

Getting Custody in Maryland 

In Maryland, the ultimate factor in deciding custody is what is in the best interest of the child. 

The court will consider certain statutory factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. These factors can include the following: 

  • Whether a parent is unfit or cannot provide proper care for the child.  
  • Whether the parent is engaging in illegal activities or there is a history of substance abuse.  
  • Whether the parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse. 
  • Whether the parent is uninvolved in the child’s life or consistently neglectful.  
  • Whether a parent can provide a stable environment inside the home. 
  • Whether the parent can provide for their child’s physical and emotional needs.  
  • Whether the parent can provide for the child’s medical and educational needs. 
  • Whether the parent has fostered a meaningful relationship with the child. 
  • Whether the parent respects the child’s privacy and rights. 
  • Whether the parent follows the court’s orders. 

The Difference Between Sole and Joint Custody 

In Maryland, there are two main types of child custody: physical and legal custody. Legal custody refers to the parent’s ability to make important decisions regarding a child’s life, including their education, religious affiliations, and medical treatment. It can be jointly held by both parties or given solely to one parent. 

When parents share legal custody, they share the responsibility of making decisions for their child. However, this type of custody is usually granted only if the parties are willing and can communicate effectively regarding their child’s upbringing. On the other hand, sole legal custody is granted to only one parent, making them the only one responsible for decisions regarding their child. The tie-breaking authority to one parent is also an option under a joint legal custody arrangement.

Physical custody can also be split between the parents or granted to only one, with the other parent receiving access rights. Sole custody typically involves one of the parties having physical custody of a child, while the other parent, also referred to as the “non-custodial” parent, will only exercise physical custody when access rights are involved.  

If Parents Share Custody, Is Child Support Required? 

A mathematical calculation is usually used to calculate child support in Maryland. This calculation requires including the following items: 

  • Who has physical custody of a child or children 
  • The number of overnights each parent has if physical custody is shared 
  • The income of both parties, and  
  • The expenses related to a child’s health insurance, daycare, and extraordinary medical costs 

If the parties have less than a combined income of $360,000 per year, then the Maryland Guidelines are presumed to apply and the mathematical calculation is typically imposed. In a case where the parties’ combined incomes exceed that amount, the Maryland Guidelines are a factor but the court ultimately must make a determination on the appropriate amount of support.

As a result, even if there is shared physical custody, it does not guarantee that child support will not be awarded to one of the parties. 

Do Parents Need a Parenting Plan? 

A parenting plan can be negotiated between parents, either as a stand alone contractual document or as part of a marital settlement agreement, to specify how they will share responsibilities related to their child(ren). If you are in a contested court case, the courts in Maryland require parties to submit this plan in any case involving the custody of a minor child to the court. That allows the parties to each set out their desired positions on child custody issues. Any agreement that the parties come to regarding custody and visitation will likely be included in the final court order.

Learn More About Child Custody Rules in Maryland, Contact Rice Law Today 

If you need further information about Maryland’s child custody rules or want to review your legal options when it comes to specific custody issues, contact Rice Law today and get the answers you need.  

Blogs published by Rice Law are available for informational purposes only and are not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The reader understands that by viewing blog posts no attorney-client relationship is created between the reader and the blog publisher, Rice Law. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.