Each biological parent is presumed to be the natural custodian of their parents under child custody laws in Maryland. In fact, the law does not give any extra privileged preference to either the father or mother. When it comes to making decision regarding child custody and visitation, the law largely looks at the ‘best interest’ of the child standard, which in exchange looks at certain critical factors that eventually determine what is most suitable and advantageous for the child (or children).
You as a parent must know that custody as well as visitation arrangements are never permanent simply because by a court order it can change. That is why under child custody laws in Maryland, a parent is always eligible to lawfully petition the Court to improve and modify a court order whenever situations change.
Common Factors of Consideration When Determining The “Best Interest of The Child” Standard
Irrespective of any kind of agreement parties may have reached, the courts under child custody laws in Maryland will look at the custody matter in order to decide the “best interest” of the child. Consequently, they take into account several critical factors of almost equal importance. Here is a list of a few of them that the state courts most often consider:
- Primary care provider – Courts will figure out answers for questions like below to identify the primary care giver:
Who takes care of the child?
Who bathes the child, feeds them, arranges day care, and shops for their clothes?
Who does the child approach when they get hurt?
- Agreement – if there is a custody agreement already in place.
- Fitness – Besides determining physical and psychological capabilities, the court may also take into account evidence of abuse by a concerned party against the other concerned parent, the spouse of the other party, or any child living with them.
- Character and reputation
- Ability to maintain effective family relationships – Under the child custody laws in Maryland, courts also attempt to determine the parent who will be better able to support the child keep nurturing family relationships. This involves figuring out who will allow the child to commute with their ex-mother-in-law and who is not going to punish the child for having bad behavior towards the other parent.
- Age, gender and health of child
- Residences of parents as well as opportunity for child visitation
- Length of Separation
- Any past abandonment or surrender of the child custody
- Religious Views of each parent
- Financial position – Which parent can get the child great material opportunities by providing them more things.
- Child Preference – the court may make a reversed decision on appeal if the judge fails to listen to the child’s preference. The judge may also choose to talk to the child outside the watchful presence of the parents. Although this rarely happens, the courts under child custody laws in Maryland will interview a child below seven years of age. Additionally, a child as young as five or six years of age may also be heard. On the other hand, a child of at least ten or twelve years of age is evidently eligible to hold their opinions and choice listened and given appropriate weight under legal proceedings related to custody. Moreover, the courts hold the legal power to appoint a family lawyer for the child when it comes to contested cases.