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Family Law - Child Custody/Visitation

Serving Montgomery County and the Surrounding Maryland Communities

CHILD CUSTODY/VISITATION

Having children is one of the great joys in life. In the event of a break up, however, the oversight and residence of a child is often a very difficult issue to resolve. As such, Legal and Physical Custody will need to be determined by the Parties or the Court. Until an amicable Agreement is signed and/or a Court Order issued, each Parent will have the same legal and custodial rights to their Child.

Legal Custody is a legal designation that generally involves the parental authority to make the most important decisions that will affect a Child's life in such areas as medical, educational, religious, etc. Legal Custody of a Child can be Sole or Joint between the Parents.

    • Sole or Joint Legal Custody is a legal designation made by the Court or by agreement of the parties that grants the legal authority over a Child to one (1) Parent. In Sole Custody, only one (1) parent has the legal authority to make decisions and/or has the sole right to have the child reside with them which is called Sole Physical Custody. As such, only the Custodial is responsible for making day to day decisions concerning their child’s life including but not limited to bed times, chores, discipline, location of their residence, medical/dental treatment, education, religion, etc. The other Parent will retain Visitation rights with their Child. Joint Custody allows for cooperation between the parents in the raising of their Child and the Parents are expected to consider one another's opinions before making important decisions. The Parent who has the sole or primary custody is commonly known as the custodial parent. The Parent who does not have custody is commonly known as the non-custodial parent.
    • Physical Custody is a legal designation that generally specifies which Parent will primarily take care of and provide a residence to a Child on a day to day basis. In most situations, a minor child will primarily live with one Parent while the other Parent will have weekly/weekend/holiday Visitation rights. Physical Custody can be Sole or Joint between the Parents. The Parent where whom the child primarily resides will usually have the right to make all of the everyday decisions affecting that Child.

      Sole or Joint Physical Custody is a legal designation made by the Court or by agreement of the Parties that grants legal authority to determine which Parent that the Child will reside or allows for both Parents to share that responsibility in some manner which is considered a type of Shared Custody. In most situations, however, Parents usually agree of a Court Orders Joint Legal Custody but Sole Physical Custody to only one (1) Parent who then has legal authority over the day to day responsibilities of child rearing but both Parents maintain joint responsibility for major decisions involving the Child such as medical, education, religion, etc.

      Shared Custody is a legal designation that is more commonly agreed to by the Parties but can be ordered by a Court when there is a high level of Parental cooperation, sufficient finances and residences close by or in the same school district whereby the Child resides with both Parents on an alternating week or monthly basis.

    • Tie Breaker Authority - In Joint or Shared Custody situations, one (1) Parent has the right, after a an effort to consult with the other Parent, to make the final decision in order to resolve a dispute. This kind of provision can be included in an amicable agreement or be ordered by the Court as part of its decision after hearing all evidence presented in a contested hearing.

Visitation the right of a Parent to visit and/or spend time with their Child away from the other Parent. In certain situations, the Court and/or by agreement of the Parties, this Visitation is supervised by others for a period of time or indefinitely if there are tangible concerns for the safety of the Child and/or the mental, emotional and/or psychological well being of the visiting Parent. has a history of violent behavior, alcohol or drug abuse. During these visitations an adult (not the custodial parent) is present during visitation. This could be a court-appointed supervisor, or the parents may choose the supervisor with court approval.

Modification is the legal procedure when a Petition or Motion is filed requesting that the Court amend or change an existing Agreement and/or Court Order. Current Issues of Custody and Support, however, can be challenged of there is a change of circumstances by the filing of a Petition for Modification with the Court. Unless there is an agreement reached by the Parties, there will be a contested hearing and the Court will determine if a change is in the best interest of the Child or Children. The legal burden to prove that there is a change in circumstances that requires the Court to change an existing agreement or court order is more difficult for a Modification then when such issues were originally agreed by the Parties and/or determined by the Court in the original legal proceeding.

Parenting Overview

Your relationship with your child is lifelong. Whether you have sole or joint custody or just visitation, your child needs and deserves both parents in their lives to support their overall well being. It is vitally important to make sure that you’re a part of your child’s life even if your relationship with the other Parent did not work out and ended up in a divorce or breakup. Everything you do and say might be reviewed by the Court in order to decide important issues over the course of your child's life. Keep this in mind especially when communication by email, text or voice message. You want to prove to the Court and the other parent that you can be a responsible adult who has the best interest of the Child in mind.

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Additional Practice Areas

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In a Protective or Domestic Violence claim, a Petition is filed by the person asserting they have been wronged.
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