As a parent, your child’s care and well-being are always your priority. You want to ensure that your child has a healthy, happy, and prosperous future. In a custody dispute, you need to know what steps to take to protect that future.

If you are involved in custody battles, let a dedicated attorney at our firm represent you and fight for your child’s best interests. With a Chevy Chase child custody lawyer by your side, you can present a strong argument to secure a positive outcome in your case.

What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

Parents often think of custody as where a child resides. While physical custody is one factor, legal custody is equally as important. Any parent facing a custody dispute should discuss the difference between the two with a knowledgeable Chevy Chase attorney.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have their child live with them overnight. In some situations, one parent may be granted primary or sole physical custody. Shared physical custody is more common and it occurs when a child spends significant amounts of overnights with both parents.

Legal Custody

On the other hand, legal custody refers to the right to make significant decisions on behalf of the child. This could include choices related to medical, religious, and educational matters.

Under joint legal custody, both parents have equal decision-making authority. If one parent has sole legal control, they can make final decisions regardless of whether the other parent objects.

In Maryland, judges must determine legal and physical custody. An experienced attorney in Chevy Chase can discuss these matters with a parent involved in child custody battles.

Factors for Child Custody Determinations in Chevy Chase

State law mandates that judges decide custody based on what is in a child’s best interest. This best interest standard applies to both legal and physical custody.

To determine “best interests,” a judge may consider numerous factors, including but not limited to:

  • The child’s age, gender, and health
  • The fitness and character of the parents
  • Whether the parents have reached any custody agreements
  • Any material opportunities affecting the child
  • Whether the parents can communicate with each other
  • The financial status of the parents
  • The history of the family

Before making a custody decision, a judge may also consider whether a parent previously abandoned their child or has a history of family violence.

The judge will attempt to balance what the parents want against what the judge deems to be the best custodial arrangement for the child. A skilled child custody attorney at our firm can further explain these factors and how a court might view a specific case.

Changing a Custody Order

Under Maryland Code Annotated Family Law Article §8-103, a parent may seek a custody modification if a substantial change in circumstances has negatively affected their child. For example, suppose one parent has moved far away or remarried, and the current custodial arrangement is no longer meeting the child’s needs. In that case, a judge may order a different custody or visitation schedule.

Like in an initial custody case, a judge hearing a modification request must consider what changes would be in the child’s best interests. Because there is a high burden of proof for “substantial change in circumstances,” a parent requesting a custody modification in Chevy Chase should consult an experienced lawyer.

Can Grandparents Gain Custody in Maryland?

Grandparents can gain custody or access with their grandchildren, but the process is complicated. The U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that grandparents do not have an inherent right to parent their grandchildren. Accordingly, a grandparent who seeks to gain custody over a parent’s objection faces an uphill battle.

Under Maryland law, a grandparent must first prove that the parents are unfit or that there are “exceptional circumstances” that warrant custody to the grandparents. If one of these conditions is satisfied, a judge may consider whether grandparent custody or access is in the child’s best interest.

Proving parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances is challenging. A grandparent who has concerns about their grandchildren’s care should consult a seasoned child custody lawyer in the area.

Speak With a Dedicated Child Custody Attorney in Chevy Case

In any custody dispute, you can benefit from the experience of a skilled legal professional. To protect your children’s best interests, speak with a Chevy Chase child custody lawyer and get the guidance you need to effectively argue your case. Contact a dedicated member of our legal team today.