When you’re going through a divorce and the child custody process, it may feel as though the state of Maryland is suddenly snooping into your life. Now a judge wants to know all kinds of details about your finances, relationships, home setup, and parenting style.
A family law and child custody attorney can help you understand what’s happening and what the judge wants to see. Here are 10 factors a judge will consider as they evaluate child custody.
1. Who is the Primary Caregiver?
The judge will look at who currently serves in the primary caregiving role for the child. If one parent is with them almost exclusively and the other parent has been mostly absent from the child’s life, this may impact the child custody arrangement.
However, if one parent has been absent from the child’s life due to the other parent restricting access, this is also something the court may consider. Is the Person Fit for the Role of Primary Caregiver?
Fitness for taking care of a child is another aspect of child custody arrangements. The judge will consider whether someone shows signs of fitness to be a parent/guardian including criminal past, time availability, mental stability, financial fitness, and more.
Maryland courts examine a wide range of indicators that someone may be fit or unfit for caregiving. You may be asked to submit things like pay stubs, tax information, medical records, household documentation, and explanations about how you plan to care for the child.
2. What Kind of Character and Reputation Do They Have?
The judge is looking for indications of your character and reputation. Do you have a history of violent crime? Have you been steadily employed? Do you have witnesses who can attest to your good character? These are the kinds of things that may factor into their judgment and it’s essential to make a good impression.
3. Does a Custody Agreement Already Exist?
The judge will take into consideration whether there is a preexisting child custody agreement. In addition, they’ll look at whether each party has held up their end of the agreement or if anyone failed to honor it.
4. Can They Maintain a Reasonable Family Relationship?
Another aspect is the potential for maintaining a stable, secure family relationship with the child. Does a certain parent have a history of domestic abuse? Disorderly conduct? Child neglect? These kinds of things can impact new custody arrangements.
5. What Does the Child Prefer?
The child’s preferences will be taken into account, especially if the child is age 16 or older. In fact, in Maryland, a minor child who is 16 years old or older can petition the court on their own to request a change to a custody order.
Younger children may share their opinion with the court if requested. However, the courts tend to look unfavorably upon parents who push their children to support them in court over the other parent, so approach this carefully with the help of your lawyer.
6. What’s the Age, Gender, and Health of the Child?
The child’s age, health, and gender could all play a role here. For example, a child with a mental or physical disability who is in need of full-time care may need to reside 100% with the parent who’s available to care for them round-the-clock.
7. Is the Primary Residence Near the Other Parent and Family?
The location of primary residence matters. If one of the parents has recently moved to a far-flung place that would take hours of driving time, the judge may count this as a factor in assigning custody.
8. What is the Length of the Separation?
A judge will also consider whether the child has already been separated from a parent for a long time. The judge may take the view that a parent has already spent years away from their child, so it would not be an undue burden on the child to see the parent very little or not at all.
9. Have they Abandoned or Surrendered Custody in the Past?
Again, the past is very important in these situations. A previous abandonment or surrender of custody could be a significant factor in whether a judge allows a parent or guardian to participate in a new custody arrangement.
As you can see, there are numerous factors that a judge will consider before ruling on child custody. We strongly recommend that you work with an experienced child custody lawyer who can help you put your best foot forward in seeking custody of your child.
The wellbeing of your child is paramount, and Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help you navigate the tricky legal process. We are here to help you get the ruling you deserve. Your case matters to us, and we’ll take the time to walk you through your options and pursue a positive outcome for you and your child.
Have a Legal Question? We Have Answers
When you need to learn more about your rights, the attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at (410) 753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced family law and child custody lawyers today.