In Maryland, each parent has equal rights and obligations with respect to the child’s support, care, nurture, welfare, and education. As such, absent a Court Order, parents have equal powers and duties. There are two aspects of child custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal Custody relates to decisions regarding education, religion, discipline, medical care, and other matters of major significance concerning a child’s life and welfare. Joint Legal Custody means that both parents have an equal voice in making legal custody decisions, and neither parent’s rights are superior to the other.
Physical Custody relates to the right and obligation to provide a home for the child and to make the day-to-day decisions while the child is actually with the custodial parent. There is no legal preference for awarding custody to mothers in Maryland and a court may grant sole physical custody to either spouse, or may grant shared/joint physical custody. Absent an agreement, Physical Custody may have a profound effect on the calculation of Child Support.
In determining Custody matters, the court’s paramount concern is the best interest of the child which considers many factors, such as:
- Capacity of parents to communicate and reach shared decisions;
- Relationship between child and each parent;
- Potential disruption of child’s social and school life;
- Demands of each spouse’s employment;
- Age, Health, and Gender of the child;
- Separation, Abandonment, or Surrender of Custody.