Legal custody is a parent’s right to make major decisions on behalf of their children. This includes decisions about medical care, mental health, religion, and education. Legal custody may also extend to a child’s extracurricular activities depending on the circumstances of a particular case. However, it does not include making day to day decisions for the children.
Parents either make these decisions together, or only one will get to decide on the major issues in their child’s life. It is usually very important for both parents to stay involved in the major decisions in their children’s lives. The parties may agree on their own about joint or sole legal custody, meaning they have to discuss it among themselves and come to an agreement.
On the other hand, those who cannot come to an agreement about legal custody may require court intervention. For help with navigating through your family issues, consider reaching out to a Maryland legal custody lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced legal advocate from our firm would be familiar with the forms of child custody in Maryland and could advise a viable solution based on your individual circumstances.
Rights and Responsibilities Associated with Legal Custody
Where a child is going to go to school, who their doctors are going to be for ongoing health care, and whether they are going to partake in any religious studies are a few examples of the important decisions that parents will have to make. It is common for one parent to agree to giving the other legal custody if he or she has traditionally been making all the major decisions with regard to their children.
Most often though, parents come to an agreement which involves joint legal custody. They may also consider giving one party tie breaking authority in the event of an impasse on a major decision in order to avoid a situation where no one can act on behalf of their children without court authority.
For example, if the parties could not agree where their child would go the school, they should discuss it in good faith. However, if one parent has tie-breaking authority, for example, they would be authorized to make a final decision and enforce it.
Sole legal custody is the ability of one parent to make decisions for their children while only having to inform the other party about it. They do not have to discuss it with them or get their consent or opinion. A dedicated Maryland legal custody attorney could help a parent obtain sole access to decision-making rights.
Parents who share joint legal custody have to discuss decisions with each other before making them on behalf of their children. Either the parties have to come to an agreement, or there has to be a mechanism whereby decisions can be made. If one of the parties is not satisfied with the decision that was made, they can always turn to the courts and file for review of the terms of their legal custody arrangement.
A Judge’s Ruling on Legal Custody
A judge in the State of Maryland must consider many factors when awarding legal custody access of a child. Some but not all of the factors which go into determining a child’s best interests include:
- Both parents’ caring capacities
- The ages of the children
- The proximity of the parties to each other
- The parties’ abilities to communicate with each other
- The economic circumstances of both parties
- Who has been the primary parent thus far
Once the court makes its ruling, the judge must state on the record how they have reached their decision and go through each of the factors as it relates to that particular case. In many cases, local judges prefer a joint legal custodial arrangement because both parents have a say in the major decisions involving their children.
The courts will determine legal custody all the way up to the emancipation of the child. This means that court intervention in a custody matter would be warranted until they either turn 18 or graduate from high school, whichever happens later. In other words, any court ordered custody arrangement would remain in effect and legally binding until that child graduates high school. After graduation, neither party will have legal custody over their child. The child can do whatever he or she wants and with whichever parent they want to do it.
There have been cases where legal custody is determined for a 17- or 18-year-old because there is an issue over education, medical care, or other unique needs. Understanding the nuances which can impact a legal custody case in Maryland can be difficult without the advice and guidance of a diligent attorney.
Call a Maryland Legal Custody Attorney Today
At the end of the day, most people come to an agreement on legal custody because it is just not worth it for them to go to court over that. In the event that court intervention does become necessary, a parent should enlist the services of a skilled Maryland legal custody lawyer for help with advocating for their children’s best interests. If you need help litigating your child’s needs, get in touch with our firm today.