Child Custody & Support

Child custody and support are two of the most important issues that parents who have separated or divorced face. The law in Maryland is simple concerning these issues, although applying the law is sometimes very difficult.

Child Custody

The concept of “custody” really involves two issues. One is “legal” custody and the other is “physical” custody. Legal custody can be either “joint” or “sole.” In joint legal custody, the parents make decisions together for their child, such as schooling, medical care and religious training. In cases where one parent has sole legal custody, that parent alone makes these decisions. As long as the parents can work together, joint legal custody is preferred.

Physical custody is really nothing more than who has the child at any given time. That changes as the child visits with one parent. Typically, physical custody rests with one of the parents – this is known as primary physical custody.

Child Support

For many years, Maryland has used mandatory child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support. It is based on the combined income of the parties. While the court can deviate from the guidelines, it rarely does so. The guildelines were revised effective October 1, 2010, so that they now include parents who up to $180,000 together. In cases of income greater than that, the court uses its discretion to set the amount of child support to be paid.

Legal Standards

To determine child custody the court must use a single standard – simple to state but often very difficult to apply. The court must determine what is the child’s best interests in order to award custody. In fact, the court uses this standard for all issues relating to a child. There is no presumption that one parent is more fit than another. The court will consider all evidence introduced at trial to make this determination.