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Making Decisions In The Best Interests Of Your Children

Children are truly a blessing. A good parent will do everything in their power to protect and provide for their kids. But what if the parents disagree about their children’s upbringing? What happens after a divorce? Or in cases of abuse and abandonment? These all can be frightening situations, but rest assured, there is a safe and legal way of handling disputes. The lawyers of Bours & Lucero, LLC, are committed to upholding the best interest of children under all circumstances.

Types Of Child Custody

Maryland courts distinguish between a few kinds of child custody:

Legal custody

This is where the parent or guardian has legal ability to make decisions regarding the child’s educational, spiritual and recreational well-being.

Joint legal custody

On the other hand, you may be ordered to share responsibility and put your differences aside to make mutual decisions about your child’s future. If you cannot agree, a judge may grant one parent “tie-breaking” power, where they have final say in conflicts.

Full legal custody

With full legal custody, you do not have to consult the other parent before making long-term changes to your child’s future (such as schooling, sports, religious activities, medical care, etc.)

Physical/residential custody

This form of custody means the child physically lives and spends time with that parent or guardian. If one guardian has sole physical custody, the court may grant the other visitation rights.

Joint physical custody

If in the best interest of the child, the court may decide that both parents should have physical custody. Joint custody may mean a 50/50 time between parents, but its custody agreements vary widely depending on the circumstances of each parent. Legally, sole physical custody becomes shared custody when both parents have the child at least 35% of the time (or 128 days a year). In practice, this usually means one parent has the child during the school months and the other during summer, or one has custody on weekdays and the other parent has custody on weekends.

The court may also determine split custody for parents of multiple children, meaning the mother is given custody of some children and the father is given custody of others.

Modifying Visitation Rights Agreements

When one parent has custody of their children less than 35% of the time (fewer than 128 days of the year), that parent is considered to have visitation rights rather than partial custody. When visitation rights are the result of circumstances such as parents living far away from each other or work schedules that don’t allow for more regular visits, parents often create informal agreements. However, in some cases, the court mandates that all visits be supervised. These visits must be scheduled at a supervised visitation center and the visiting parent is not allowed to be alone with their child. If you are having issues with visitation rights, we can help you appeal to the court for a change in your agreement.

Child Custody And Other Relatives

The natural parents are automatically considered the primary caregivers, but when both parents are found unfit to give adequate care or in special cases, judges may grant full or partial custody and visitation rights to grandparents, aunts and uncles, or others. Other relatives besides the biological parents can petition the court for custody at any time. Eviction attorneys for landlords may also have to get involved in a dispute leading to divorce and moving into separate homes.

Obligations To Pay Child Support

Every child deserves support from both parents. When a couple decides to legally separate, the state usually acts as a mediator, determining who pays child support and the amount of the payment. Most of the logistics of determining the amount and making payments can be found on the Maryland Child Support Administration website. If the court designates you to make child support payments, you are legally obliged to provide payments until the child reaches 18 and graduates high school unless you get a court order to modify the payment arrangement. Failing to pay child support on time when you are financially able to can result in a judge finding you in contempt of court, resulting in suspension of your driver’s license and jail time.

Child Custody Battles With Unmarried Couples

If an unmarried couple has a child custody dispute, the court will automatically grant full custody rights to the mother unless the father can establish parentage, usually through genetic testing. If paternity is established, then neither the father nor the mother is given preference in the custody dispute.

Going to court to settle a child custody dispute is not always best. Some parents fear that taking legal action will drive fear and anger, causing physical and psychological fights. From a legal standpoint, child custody disputes are complicated and often difficult to settle. For parents, the process is emotionally draining and often very expensive. Except for cases involving abuse, we recommend that couples try to exhaust all other options before going to court.

Contact The Child Custody Lawyers At Bours & Lucero, LLC

No matter what family law issues you face, the lawyers of Bours & Lucero, LLC, will always give confidential and caring legal advice to ensure your children are given the love and attention they deserve. To set up a consultation, call us at 240-428-0933 or fill out our online contact form.