Do You Need Help From a Child Custody Lawyer in Rockville, Maryland?
Child custody is often an extremely emotional and contentious part of a divorce. You need an experienced and knowledgeable child custody lawyer to guide any decisions you need to make onto a positive path, as they will impact your family dynamics and your relationship with your child(ren) for the rest of your life. At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee in Rockville, we are committed to working out custody arrangements that serve the interests of your children while accommodating your parental wishes.
With well over three decades of family law experience, we have a firm grasp on how Maryland law affects the custody of children in divorce and paternity cases — as well as in post-divorce situations where modifications, enforcement, or relocation must be addressed and resolved through the courts. Our founding family law attorney, Ellen L. Lee, is known for being a calm and compassionate, yet tough negotiator and litigator.
Discuss your custody case in a confidential consultation with our founding child custody attorney, who has been committed to helping individuals and children in situations like yours pursue their family goals in Montgomery County, Maryland for over three decades. Contact us at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee by calling (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692 today to schedule your consultation. We can conduct this in-depth information-gathering session either by phone, by video via Zoom, or in person at our boutique law office in Rockville, Maryland.
Maryland’s Child Custody Laws Specify Different Types of Custody
Maryland child custody agreements must provide for both the physical custody and legal custody of children. The parent with physical custody provides a home for the child and makes the day-to-day decisions on the child’s behalf. On the other hand, legal custody refers to the right to make the big life decisions concerning the child, such as those dealing with education, religion, and medical care.
In Maryland, both physical and legal custody can be divided and shared in different ways. Custody terms can be described as a combination of the custody type (legal and/or physical) and the custody arrangement, which can vary in complexity and are specific to your family’s needs.
Common custody arrangements embraced by parents include:
- Sole custody: In a sole custody arrangement, one parent is granted both physical and legal custody. The child lives with the custodial parent, and a visitation schedule is established to allow the noncustodial parent to spend time with the child.
- Split custody: In families with more than one child, the parents may decide to split up the custody of the children, with one parent assuming physical and legal custody of some of the children and the other parent assuming physical and legal custody of the other children. Sometimes older children have a say in deciding with whom they live.
- Joint custody: Joint child custody can be arranged in a number of ways. Parents may share legal custody while one parent has physical custody. In other cases, they might share legal and physical custody equally or nearly equally. A combination that includes elements of joint and shared legal and shared physical custody may also be arranged to suit individual needs. Our family law attorney can devise customized arrangements that will accommodate what is right for your family.
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In a very common custody scenario, the parents share legal custody and one parent has physical custody. This requires the parents to agree on the significant decisions in advance and honor those decisions regardless of who has physical custody. Custody and visitation decisions are often closely tied to child support terms. Discuss the details of your case with our experienced founding child custody attorney at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee to determine the right custody agreement terms to seek in your unique situation.
Physical Custody Versus Legal Custody
In Maryland, child custody laws distinguish between two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Each type of custody carries different implications and responsibilities for the parents and the child.
The distinction between legal and physical custody is crucial because it impacts the day-to-day lives of the parents and the child. Physical and legal custody determinations affect:
- who makes significant decisions for the child
- where the child lives
- the amount of time the child spends with each parent
Legal Custody in Maryland
Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make long-term, significant decisions about a child’s upbringing, such as those regarding:
- the child’s education
- the child’s religious upbringing
- medical care for the child
- other major life decisions
Two Types of Legal Custody in Maryland: Sole Legal Custody & Joint Legal Custody
Sole legal custody means that one parent has the exclusive right to make these decisions, while joint legal custody implies that both parents share this responsibility.
If a parent doesn’t have legal custody, they don’t have the authority to make these significant decisions for their child. However, even if a parent does not have legal custody, they still have the right to access information about their child such as school records and medical records.
Sole Physical Custody Versus Joint Physical Custody in Maryland
Physical custody pertains to where the child lives on a daily basis. Like legal custody, physical custody can be sole or joint. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent the majority of the time, while the other parent may have visitation rights. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, means that the child spends substantial time living with both parents.
If a parent does not have physical custody, they may still have visitation rights unless the court determines that visitation would not be in the child’s interests. Speak with your family law attorney if you wish to pursue a change regarding visitation or physical custody in Maryland.
Sole Custody Versus Joint Custody
Sole custody and joint custody each have their own implications for the parents and the child. In either scenario, the court’s primary concern is the interest of the child. Factors considered include:
- the fitness of the parents
- character and reputation
- the preference of the child
- potential disruption of social and school life
- many other factors
Sole Custody in Maryland
Sole custody can refer to both legal and physical custody. If a parent has sole legal custody, they have the exclusive right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing, including their education, healthcare, and religious practices. Sole physical custody means the child lives primarily with one parent, while the other parent may have visitation rights.
Having sole custody can sometimes create an imbalance in the parent-child relationships. The custodial parent might bear the majority of day-to-day responsibilities, which can be stressful. The non-custodial parent, on the other hand, might feel excluded from their child’s life, which can strain their relationship with the child.
Joint Custody in Maryland
Joint custody can also be applied to both legal and physical custody. Joint legal custody means both parents share the responsibility of making significant decisions for the child. Joint physical custody refers to a situation where the child spends substantial time living with both parents. The number of “overnights” each parent has with the child determines whether it’s considered sole or shared physical custody.
Joint custody requires a high level of cooperation and communication between parents. If the parents have difficulty working together or if there are unresolved conflicts, this could negatively affect the child’s well-being and the co-parenting relationship.
Parenting Time in Maryland Child Custody Cases
In Maryland, “parenting time” is a term commonly used to refer to the physical custody aspect of child custody arrangements. It delineates when the child spends time with each parent.
The concept of parenting time is central to the creation of a parenting plan, which is required in any case involving custody or modification of custody of a child. A parenting plan provides a guide that can be used as parties handle child-related issues. It’s a written agreement documenting how parties will work together to take care of a child.
Parenting time can vary greatly depending on the specific custody circumstances of each case. For physical custody to be considered “shared” in Maryland, both parents must have at least a minimum of 93 overnight visitations each year. That equals roughly 25% of the year. This arrangement can provide the child with a sense of stability and continuity, helping them to maintain strong relationships with both parents.
Parents who are not awarded custody may seek visitation and parenting time – which are called “access rights” in Maryland law. Judges have significant discretion to award these rights in association with a custody order based on the interest of the child.
Grandparents’ Rights in Relation to Maryland Child Custody Terms
In Maryland, grandparents do have legal rights in relation to their grandchildren. Under Maryland Family Code §9-102, grandparents may request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren at any time. While Maryland law does recognize grandparents’ rights, the specifics of each case will depend on a variety of factors. The child’s interests remain paramount throughout these cases.
Grandparents Seeking Custody of Grandchildren in Maryland
Grandparents can also request custody of their grandchildren under certain circumstances, such as when the parents are unable or unfit to take care of their children. In such cases, the court will consider the interests of the child when making its decision.
Benefits of Grandparenting Time Relative to Custody Arrangements in Maryland
There are several important considerations for grandparents and grandchildren in relation to grandparenting time scenarios. For grandparents, gaining visitation or custody rights may provide an opportunity to maintain a close relationship with their grandchildren and to contribute positively to their upbringing.
For grandchildren, spending time with grandparents can offer numerous benefits. Grandparents can provide emotional support, wisdom, and a sense of family history. They can also offer a stable, loving environment, which can be particularly beneficial if the child’s parents are going through a difficult time, such as a divorce or custody dispute.
Challenges When Pursuing Grandparenting Time in Maryland
Pursuing visitation rights can also present challenges for grandparents. If there are conflicts between the grandparents and parents, or if the grandparents are unfit in some way, it could potentially have negative impacts on the child.
Maryland law requires grandparents to prove that it is in the interest of the child for them to have visitation rights. This might require showing that the child would be harmed without grandparent visitation — which can be a high bar to meet. An experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you navigate these complicated circumstances.
How Maryland Courts Determine Child Custody
The state courts in Rockville and throughout Maryland generally accept any reasonable child custody arrangement that you and your spouse can agree on, so long as it serves your child’s interests. When you cannot agree, however, the court takes a more active role in deciding custody issues.
The court will consider such factors as the ability of each of you to provide for your children and in whose custody your child will experience less disruption of day-to-day life. Depending on the age of your child, the court may take his or her desires into account as well.
The primary rule that guides Maryland courts is that custody decisions must be based on the interests of the child, not the parents. Work closely with your child custody lawyer to determine appropriate goals for child custody in light of your concerns for your child(ren) and the various practical factors and the effects on your child(ren)’s experience and your relationships going forward.
Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Child Custody Matter with Ellen L. Lee to Leverage Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
With over 35 years of commitment, Ellen L. Lee has been devoted to helping individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law requirements. Equipped with a counseling and psychology background, she offers personal guidance and emotional support during potentially difficult times.
Our founding attorney has significantly more in-depth family law experience than the majority of child custody lawyers in our region. Choose a lawyer who cares about your child’s interests. At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, LLC, we can help you work out custody arrangements that satisfy you and benefit your children.
Contact our firm today through our online form or call us at (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692 to schedule a confidential consultation with our founding attorney. During this information-gathering session, we will discuss the details of your child custody case and your goals by phone, by video via Zoom, or in person at our boutique family law firm in Rockville, Maryland. We can also schedule evening or weekend appointments to meet your needs.
Why Choose the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee
Ellen L. Lee has devoted over 35 years of unwavering commitment to aiding individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law needs. Grounded in counseling and psychology, she provides personalized guidance and assistance to her clients in an inviting atmosphere — prioritizing effective communication while forging new beginnings amidst family law disputes.
- Tenacious & Compassionate Legal Support
- Trusted Guidance that Exceeds Expectations
- Full Range of Family Law Services
- Flexible Consultation Times: Nights and Weekends are Available
- Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
Our Founding Attorney conveniently meets with clients via phone, video conference, or in person at our office in Rockville, Maryland.