Child custody and visitation can be some of the most contentious issues during a separation or divorce. Even after a judge issues a custody order, circumstances can change, and a parent may need to seek a modification.
A Gaithersburg child custody lawyer can fight for your best interests and your children. When dealing with matters of this importance, it is crucial to work with a skilled attorney who has a track record of successfully handling custody cases.
A Child’s Best Interests is Always the Priority
When determining custody in Maryland, judges must first and foremost consider the best interests of the child. Neither parent comes to court with an advantage over the other, and their wishes are secondary to what is good for their child.
When considering what custodial arrangement would best meet a child’s needs, a judge may consider several factors under state law. A knowledgeable child custody attorney can further explain these factors, which include:
- The parent’s character, reputation, and fitness to be a parent
- Material opportunities affecting the child’s future
- The child’s age, gender, and health
- The parents’ ability to communicate with each other about their child’s welfare
- The child’s preference if they are old enough to have a reasoned opinion (although that is not common)
- Any other factor that the court deems relevant
Essentially, a court may consider any evidence that concerns the parents’ abilities to raise the child and meet the child’s specific needs.
Understanding the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody
Legal custody is a parent’s authority to make significant decisions for their children, including educational, healthcare, and religious choices. If a parent has sole legal custody, they may decide these matters without the other parent’s input. However, when the parents share legal custody, they must consult with one another and make joint decisions that benefit their child.
Physical custody refers to the time a child spends with a parent. Under a primary custody arrangement, a child spends most of their time with one parent and may visit with the other. When a child resides with both parents for significant amounts of time, the parents have shared custody.
The specific type of custody a parent has can significantly impact their relationship with their child. As such, a parent facing a custody dispute is well-advised to seek assistance from an experienced attorney in Gaithersburg.
Changing Custody Arrangements in Gaithersburg
Even after child custody has been determined, changes in the parent or child’s life may necessitate modifying an existing custody agreement or court order. Examples of a change in circumstances could include a parent’s relocation, untreated substance abuse or mental health issues, or a parent’s remarriage and the introduction of a stepparent in the child’s life.
If the parents disagree on how to revise custody to address the new circumstances, one or both may file a petition for modification of custody. Under Maryland Code Annotated Family Law §1-201, family court judges have the authority to set aside or modify court orders regarding children. However, a court may only modify custody if there is a substantial change in the family’s circumstances that has impacted the welfare child.
The parent seeking the custody revision has the burden of proving the change in circumstances. A seasoned child custody lawyer at our firm can advise a parent whether there is a sufficient basis to request a modification and, if so, what steps to take to prepare for court.
Meet with a Gaithersburg Child Custody Attorney Today
As a parent, your child’s happiness, safety, and overall well-being are your priorities. Regardless of the status of your relationship with the other parent, you always want what is best for your kids. While you may hope to amicably resolve any custody disputes with your child’s other parent, this may not be an easy task.
Because Maryland judges have broad discretion when determining custody, it is essential to persuasively present your position in court. A Gaithersburg child custody lawyer can zealously advocate on your behalf to ensure a happy, healthy, and stable environment for you and your children. Call our legal team today to learn more about custody laws and procedures.