Child Support and Child Custody
Maryland custody law draws from a variety of sources – case law and statutory law - that must be read together in order to appreciate the complexities of the law and to best achieve each client’s objectives.
Child custody has two components – legal custody and physical custody. Your parental right and obligation to make broad, long term decisions involving education, religious training, discipline, medical care and other matters of major significance concerning the child’s life and welfare depends on legal custody. Joint legal custody means both parents have an equal voice in such decisions and neither parent’s rights supersede the other parent’s rights. Physical custody involves the right and obligation to provide where the child lives, and the day to day decision making that occurs while the child is in such parent’s physical custody. Multiple variations of custody arrangements exist. The best interest of the child is the standard utilized by the court in making legal custody and physical custody decisions.
Although the facts and circumstances of each case remain determinative, the Maryland courts note that no two cases are the same and no custody case is easily determined. Rather, the Maryland courts place weight on the following factors in their analysis:
- Parents’ fitness;
- Parents’ character and reputation;
- Each natural parent’s desires and any agreements between them;
- Potential for maintaining natural family relationships;
- Preference of child, if of a sufficient age and capacity to make a rational decision;
- Material opportunities affecting child’s future life;
- Age, sex, health and number of children;
- Each parent’s residence and opportunity for visitation;
- Length of separation from natural parents;
- Willingness of each parent to share custody;
- Sincerity of each parent’s request;
- Capacity and wiling of parents to communicate and to reach shared decisions that affect the child’s welfare;
- Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of custody of the child;
- Relationship between the child and each parent;
- Potential disruption of child’s social and school life;
- Geographic proximity of parental homes;
- Demands of parental employment;
- Parents’ financial status;
- Effect on State or Federal Assistance;
- Other factors that reasonably relate to the issue of joint custody;
- Extended family;
- Parents’ religion and child’s religious upbringing to the extent it impacts the child’s physical and/or emotional welfare; and
- Evidence of abuse by a party against the other parent of a party’s child, the party’s spouse or any child residing within the parent’s household (including a child other than the child that is the subject of the custody or visitation inquiry).
We can help guide you through the application of these factors to give you and your child the best possible custody arrangement.
Notably, a child who is 16 years old or older and remains subject to a custody order or decree may file a petition to change custody. The child may file in his or her name and does not have to proceed by a guardian or next friend. The court shall hold a hearing and may amend the order or decree and place the child in the custody of the parent chosen by the child.
Starting on October 1, 2010, Maryland calculates child support depending on a variety of factors, including actual income, child care expenses, special needs, health care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses, particular educational needs, and transportation expenses. Child support is divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted annual income. The obligee (custodial parent) is presumed to spend his or her portion directly on the child or children, and the obligor (non-custodial parent) shall owe that child support payment to the obligee, minus any ordered payments included in the calculation made directly by the obligor on behalf of the child or children.
For more information on the Child Support Guidelines, see The New Child Support Guidelines (October, 2010).
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