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Understanding child custody and visitation in Maryland

Divorce is still stressful, even it feels like the right decision. Deciding how to separate everything you have accumulated together with your soon-to-be ex spouse is challenging, especially if you have children.

You both will need to determine custody and visitation arrangements regarding your kids. If you can’t, a court will decide.

Custody and visitation terms

Before your divorce, you may have heard of the terms custody and visitation used nearly synonymously. However, both are different. There are two types of custody – legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody

A parent with legal custody makes decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as school choice, religious, health and other aspects of the child’s life. Although legal custody can be bestowed to one parent, courts prefer that both parents make decisions about the day-to-day aspects of their child’s life.

Physical custody

The child typically lives full-time with the parent who has physical custody. The other parent, however, usually has some sort of visitation rights. Visitation schedules will differ based on individual circumstances.

A parent with visitation rights may see the child every other weekend. Other times, the parent may have visitation rights while school is out of session, such as Christmas break, spring break or summer break.

Creating a parenting plan

Many divorcing parents are able to determine their own custody and visitation schedule that works for their situation. However, some may not be on amicable terms and are unable to agree on such matters.

The court will then step in to help. In Maryland, courts look at various factors to make custody and visitation decisions. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Parent resources
  • Relationship between parents and children
  • Activities and interests of the children

The court’s ultimate goal is to come up with a solution that is fair to both parents while looking out for the best interest of the children.