Child Custody (Maryland)

Who gets Custody of the Kids?

In Maryland, both parents are considered the natural custodians of their children.  There is no preference favoring either the mother or the father.   If the divorcing parties cannot reach an agreement with regard to their children, the Court will determine custody using the “best interests” of the children standard. 

What is Physical Custody?

Physical custody indicates where the children reside.  

What is Sole Physical Custody?

In a sole physical custody arrangement, sometimes referred to as primary custody, the children have only one residence.  The children reside with their other parent less than 35% of the time, or less than 128 overnights per year.

What is Shared Physical Custody?

In a shared physical custody arrangement, also referred to as joint physical custody, the children have two residences.   They share time with both parents and spend at least 35% of the time with one parent and the remainder of the time with the other parent.  

Can the Court award Split Custody?

When the parties have two or more children, in some circumstances, the Court can award split custody.  This means one or more of the children live primarily with one parent and the remaining children live primarily with the other parent.  

What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important long-term decisions regarding the religion, education, health, and welfare of the children. 

What is Sole Legal Custody?

In a sole legal custody arrangement one parent has the right to make long-term decisions regarding important issues affecting the children.   Day to day issues are still made by the parent with whom the child is residing at the time. 

What is Joint Legal Custody?

If parents have joint legal custody, each parent has an equal voice in making long-range plans and decisions, and neither parent’s rights are superior to the other.   Both parents must agree on these important long-term child-rearing decisions.

What is the Best Interests of the Children Standard?

When determining child custody, the Court must consider the facts and circumstances of each case.    The following is a list of some but not all of the factors the Court must consider:

  •         Fitness of the parents;
  •         The character and reputation of the parties;
  •         The requests of each parent and the sincerity of the requests;
  •         Any agreements between the parties;
  •         Willingness of the parents to share custody;
  •         Each parent’s ability to maintain the child’s relationship with the other parent, siblings, relatives,
  •          and any other person who may psychologically affect the child’s best interest;
  •         The preference of the child, when the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational
  •          judgment; 
  •         The ability of the parent’s to communicate and reach decisions affecting the welfare of the children;
  •         How close the parents’ residences are to one another and opportunities for time with each parent;
  •         The financial status of the parents
  •         Potential disruption to each child’s social and school life;
  •         The length of separation of the parties; and
  •         The relationship between the children and each parent.

Can Custody be awarded to a Third Party, such as Grandparents?

In Maryland there is a prima facie presumption that a child’s welfare will be best served in the care and custody of his/her parents rather than in the custody of others.  Thus, the burden is upon the third party seeking custody to show by a preponderance of the evidence that both parents are unfit or that there are extraordinary circumstances.  Once the presumption has been defeated, the court must consider the facts and circumstances based on the best interests standard to determine who shall have custody. 



Mailing Address

Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
451 Hungerford Dr,
Suite 119-307
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
344 Maple Ave West,
Suite 355
Vienna, Virginia 22180

Meeting Locations

Rockville, Maryland:
1 Research Court,
Suite 450
Rockville, Maryland 20850
(240) 389-4377
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Fairfax, Virginia:
11325 Random Hills Rd,
Suite 360
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
(240) 389-4377
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