Child custody laws vary from state to state. However, there are several basic types of child custody arrangements. When you meet with your family law attorney, you can discuss your goals for child custody. Your lawyer will advise you that the judge will consider many factors when establishing child custody; however, the overriding factor is which arrangement would be in the child’s best interests.
Your child custody order will provide for both physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to at which residence the child will reside. Usually, family court judges try to balance the time the child spends with each parent. The parent who does not have primary physical custody will likely have visitation rights. A child custody lawyer serving the Baltimore Area can negotiate with the counsel for the custodial parent to arrange a fair visitation agreement.
Whichever parent the child is currently with has the primary responsibility to make everyday decisions for that child. However, the parent with legal custody of the child has the responsibility of making the major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. These decisions involve matters such as healthcare, education, and religion. As explained below, legal custody can be held solely by one party, or jointly between them.
The judge can decide to award one of the parents sole legal and physical custody. If this occurs, the other parent may have visitation rights. Sometimes, such as in cases of domestic violence, the other parent will not be allowed any access to the child.
Your family law attorney may recommend asking the judge for joint or shared custody. Parents may share joint legal or shared physical custody, or both. With shared physical custody, the child is considered to have two residences. He or she will spend at least 35 percent of the time with each parent. With joint legal custody, the parents work together to agree upon major decisions for the child’s upbringing. Alternatively, each parent may have authority over specific areas. For example, one parent may make decisions with regard to healthcare, while the other is responsible for the child’s education. Sometimes, one parent is granted “tiebreaking” authority in the event a disagreement arises. Joint physical and legal custody both require that the parents set aside personal differences and work cooperatively for the well-being of the child.