The leading case in Maryland that establishes that is Queen Vs Queen. In that, it lays out a ten factor test. One is the fitness of the parents.It is a huge factor because that is pretty much yes or no, red light or green light. You have to be fit before you move into the rusty analysis. Second, is the character and reputation of the parties. The third is the desire of natural parents and any agreements between the parents, so it is really two within one. Fourth is the potential to maintain natural family relationships both with the parents and with extended family siblings etc. The fifth is the preference of the child and that is more complicated depending on the age of the child and what the circumstances are.
Six is the material opportunities affecting the future child relative to each parent, seventh is the age, health and gender of the child. The eighth is the residence of the parents and the opportunity for visitation; a) what are the residences like and b) how close do people live together. If they are twenty minutes apart, not a big deal. If they are a couple of states away, that is a big deal. Nine is the length of separation of the natural parents and that is not so much the separation of the parents from each other, but the separation of the child from one or both of the parents. Number ten is any monetary abandonment or surrender of the child either to the other parent or to a third party.
Those are the ten big factors in play. Child custody is a highly emotional decision for any judge to make so there is also sort of the unwritten factor which is just generally how the judge feels about the parents when they testify. Many cases come down to a pretty close draw on those ten factors and it comes down to how the judge feels about the parents.
Do The Courts Typically Favor Either Parent During A Custody Battle?
It varies somewhat from judge to judge. The older judges tend to be a little bit more old school. With judges in midlife or younger judges, it is more of an even playing field. The big exception is if you have an infant that is breastfeeding, then mom is obviously going to get an advantage at least for the period of time when she is feeding the child. A lot of times, it would depend on the commitment of the mom. Some mothers get a three month maternity leave and it is not so bad because they have employees and technology to make that happen. I am not a pediatrician but I know some mothers feed six months sometimes.Without getting all the grisly biological details, if Mom is out there, she is got to provide the breastmilk and that becomes just strategically and tactically challenging.
The Importance Parental Fitness In A Child Custody Case
Fitness is huge. If a parent is found to be unfit, you do not get into the rest of it. It is just game over. If you imagine yourself as a judge trying to decide where the future of this child lies, then judges are at a disadvantage. They do not know these people, they come in and they listen to several hours or a couple of days of testimony and then they have to make a call. Some cases are not that difficult of a call but the majority of them are. The cases that are weighted heavily one way or other often do not make it to trial. When the cases get to trial, it is usually because it is a close call.
A lot of times, going through the factors does not get them where they need to be and they listen very closely to the parents’ testimony and that is very huge regarding how they feel about the parent. It also comes in under some of these factors, but they take a hard look at where has the child been before the trial and how is the child doing. If the child has been with one parent more than the other for whatever reason and the child is doing well, the judges are hesitant to rock the boat. They do not want to try to fix something that is apparently not broken.
The Different Types Of Custody Available Under Maryland Law
There are two types of custody. There is legal custody, which is the right to consent to legal things regarding the child’s medical treatment, the release of medical records, decisions regarding school. Then there is physical custody, which is essentially the right to physically possess the child. In legal custody, the terms are very important when it is joint legal or sole legal physical custody.The terms are more descriptive in which the schedule that is more powerful gets that. Under the child support law, which is related and runs in tandem with the custody law, there is a term called Shared Custody. When both parents have the child close to an equal amount of time, then they call it shared custody and it changes the child support calculation.
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