One of the first things a divorcing couple with children in Maryland tend to argue about is child custody. Who will the children live with? How often will you get to see them? Does joint custody mean I won’t get (or have to pay) child support? Does sole custody mean the other parent doesn’t get any input? Who makes all these decisions? And, lastly, what arrangement is in the best interest of the child?
That last part, the best interest of the child, is the standard that courts use in determining almost everything related to child custody. But judges don’t know the unique dynamics of every marriage, or the unique relationships every parent develops with their children. When a judge has to rely on the information he receives in a courtroom from two often diametrically opposed sides, the decisions can be even tougher. That is why one of the most important things for either parent to know is, what should I be asking for?
When a parent asks for sole custody during divorce proceedings, that parent should know that they are going against most modern legal trends. With more and more information pointing toward the benefits of both parents being involved, fewer judges are inclined to award sole custody unless there are some very good reasons for it, such as the presence of abuse or drug dependence in a relationship.
Joint custody is emerging as the best option in a bad situation. Although some jurisdictions still required that the parties agree to joint custody before it can be ordered, many are switching to allow judges more power to award joint custody on their own. Joint custody can get complicated because two things are being divided: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody involves decisions about where the child will live and how often they will visit with the other parent. Legal custody involves the major decisions that usually must be made in a child’s life, such as determining education, religion, and medical care.
Most divorces by their very nature arise from bad situations, so finding mutual understandings between the two sides can be the most difficult part. But all parents should be thinking of their child’s best interest, which is why knowing what to ask for from the court can make the decisions less stressful, and the resulting relationships between all parties more fruitful.
Source: Huffington Post, “How To Divorce: How Can I Get Full Custody Of The Kids?,” Michele F. Lowrance, May 1, 2012