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MARYLAND   CHILD   CUSTODY   LAW   OVERVIEW





Child Custody law and procedure varies greatly from state to state.

This information concerns Maryland custody law only.

The information on this page is General information only about Maryland Child Custody Law and is not meant to replace Legal Advice.

Maryland law no longer allows family law judges to presume the Mother should get Custody instead of the Father, and the child support laws apply to Mothers as well as to Fathers.  

Today's Maryland Family Law is very different than many people think.

Maryland Family Law is drawn from the sources of the Maryland Code, Maryland Court Rules, and Maryland Case Law.     The Maryland Family Law court system is complex and Maryland Family Law requires Judges to consider many variables and laws before making a decision in each Family Law case.   Individual laws cannot be fully comprehended without understanding how they interact with each other and within the elaborate Maryland Family Law Court system, and trying to interpret individual laws without understanding how they each interact with each other and within this system could decrease the chance of achieving an outcome favorable to you in your case.

It is in your best interest to consult an Attorney with experience in Maryland Family Law courts before agreeing to anything or signing anything regarding your Maryland Divorce, Custody, or Domestic Violence/Abuse case.


Individual Maryland laws regarding Custody, Visitation, Child Support, Alimony, and Divorce cannot be fully comprehended without understanding how they interact with each other and within the elaborate Maryland Family Law Court system, and trying to interpret individual laws without understanding this could decrease the chance of achieving an outcome favorable to you in your case.



Family Law varies from state to state.   There is NO presumption of JOINT Custody in Maryland.   Some states do have a rebuttable presumption of Joint Custody -- Maryland is NOT one of those states.


Terms used in Maryland Custody Law

There are two kinds of child custody in Maryland:
LEGAL custody and PHYSICAL custody.
Each has different rights associated with it.

LEGAL custody gives a parent the right to make broad, long-term decisions affecting the child.

PHYSICAL custody is what affects where the child lives, day-to-day decision-making, and child support.

Child support in Maryland is calculated by using the average monthly income of each of the parents, the average number of overnights the child spends with each parent, health insurance costs, childcare costs, and a few other factors.

Here are some examples:

Joint PHYSICAL Custody with Equal Access/Equal Authority
-- No Child Support if both parents earn the same amount
and both parents have equal rights as parents in regard to spending time with the child and making decisions about the child

Joint LEGAL Custody
-- Gives both parents authority to make lonng-term decisions regarding the child

Child Support is not affected by LEGAL Custody
and LEGAL Custody does not affect the visitation schedule with the child

*These are just some of many possible custody arrangements
See the attorney for details and find out the implications involved before agreeing to anything

Access to the child and child support are determined by PHYSICAL Custody

Joint LEGAL custody does not include Joint PHYSICAL custody unless specified

PHYSICAL Custody is sometimes called "Residential Custody," "Primary Care," or sometimes it is not labeled at all and a schedule regarding overnights with the child is simply set (or agreed to) and it is then that schedule (rather than a label or term) that determines child support and the right to make the short-term, day-to-day decisions that go with "physical custody."


Main Factors Maryland courts consider when determining Custody


Although there are several factors the Maryland courts consider when awarding custody in Maryland, there is no specific weight or priority assigned to these factors and there is no specific formula like there is for awarding child support.   The facts and circumstances of each particular case will be determinative.

The relevant case law in Maryland holds that "there is no such thing as a simple custody case," that "custody cases are like fingerprints because no two are exactly the same," and "that there is no litmus test that provides a quick and easy answer to custody matters."

When deciding Custody cases, Maryland Judges consider the main Factors listed below.


These main Factors are listed as a starting point for people wanting to know very basic things about Maryland Custody Law.


Main Factors

Sincerity of each of the parent's request;
Capacity and willingness of the parents to Communicate and to reach shared decisions affecting the child's welfare;
Flexibility of each of the parents;
Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of custody of the child;
Length of the separation of the parents;
Relationship established between the child and each parent;
Desire of the natural parents and any Agreements between them;
Fitness of the parents;
Character and reputation of the parents;
Potential for maintaining natural family relations;
Extended Family;
Preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational judgment;
Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child;
Age, health, sex, and number of children;
Residences of the parents and the opportunity for visitation;
Willingness of each of the parents to share custody;
Potential disruption of child's social and school life;
Geographic proximity of parental homes;
Demands of parental employment;
Age and number of children;
Financial status of parents;
Impact on State or Federal Assistance;
Benefit to parents


*Maryland Family Court Judges consider many variables when considering each of these main Factors.   Knowing this list of these main Factors does not necessarily include an understanding of the dynamics that often occur in Maryland Family Law courts or of the many other variables Maryland Family Court Judges often consider as Sub-Factors to many of these main Factors.



Changing Existing Custody Orders in Maryland