Towson Child Custody Lawyer
In divorce cases involving children, child custody issues must be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. This includes creating a parenting plan that covers both legal custody and physical custody of the children. Lebovitz Law can assist you in the process of creating a parenting plan while answering all your questions regarding child custody and visitation under Maryland law. If you are involved in a divorce or child custody dispute in Baltimore County or anywhere statewide, contact our experienced Towson child custody lawyer today.
Definition of child custody
Child custody is the legal framework that governs parents’ or guardians’ childcare rights and obligations. It entails deciding where the child will live (physical custody), who will make decisions about their education, healthcare, and other important aspects of their life (legal custody), and how much time the child will spend with each parent (joint custody).
In Maryland, the issue of child custody is taken very seriously as it encompasses not only the physical custody of the child but also the significant decisions associated with childcare and development.
In all child custody cases, the courts make decisions based on the best interest of the child or children involved.
Importance of hiring a lawyer for child custody cases
Custody battles in Maryland may be challenging and emotional for parents and legal guardians. An attorney can help ensure a parent or guardian’s case is presented properly during negotiations and in court.
Family law attorneys are well-versed in the legal aspects of child custody and can ensure that a parent gets proper access to their children and that the children’s best interests are served by the court.
It can also be important to have an attorney on your side if the other parent decides to challenge your right to custody or if you think that it is not in the best interest of the children to have contact with their other parent. In these instances, an attorney can refute claims made by the other party and build a case against them having legal or physical custody.
Brief overview of the services provided by a Towson child custody lawyer
Towson child custody attorneys offer legal representation during child custody hearings. However, their services extend well beyond the time in court.
A good child custody attorney will explain child custody regulations to their clients, listen to the details of the situation, and help the client decide on the best course of action. One of the most overlooked services an attorney offers is helping their clients avoid unnecessary steps during the legal process.
A child custody lawyer will also help collect and organize evidence, negotiate with the other parent’s counsel, and check that any arrangements struck are fair and in the children’s best interests.
Types of child custody
There are four variables to consider in child custody cases. The first two are legal and physical custody, and the second pair are joint and sole custody.
Here is a closer look at these different types of child custody.
Legal custody refers to the authority to make long-term decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as schooling, religion, discipline, and medical care (non-emergency). It is technically possible for a parent to have legal custody but not physical custody. For instance, if they live outside Maryland, they can still help make decisions about their children’s lives without actually living in the same home as them.
Physical custody refers to the day-to-day job of caring for a child. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with and when. A parent with physical custody will also be responsible for making day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
Child custody can be awarded as either sole custody (to one parent only) or joint custody (shared by the parents). This applies to legal custody as well as physical custody. The parents can agree on joint or sole custody, or the courts can order any combination of joint and sole legal and physical custody.
Courts may grant physical custody jointly to both parents if they are fit to care for their children. Joint custody rulings or agreements usually come with an outline of the times when each parent is responsible for the children. For example, the children may live with one parent on the weekend and the other during the week.
Sole custody is when one parent is responsible for the children, and the other one has no rights to physical custody. In cases of sole custody, the other parent may have visitation rights as long as it is safe and in the best interest of the children to have such contact.
Factors considered in child custody cases
Courts may consider four different factors when deciding child custody cases: the best interest of the children, the continuity of their lives, their parents’ ability to care for them, and their personal preferences.
Best Custody Decisions for the child
Any decisions regarding child custody — physical, legal, joint, sole, visitation — are made against the backdrop of what decision would be in the best interests of the child. Although the Maryland statutes on child custody don’t explain how to determine which custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests, several court cases have addressed this issue and provided a list of factors for courts to consider. Examples of factors important to a court’s decision include the following:
- Fitness of Each Parent
- Character and Reputation of the Parents
- Willingness of Parents to Share Custody
- Capacity of the Parents to Communicate and Reach Shared Decisions Affecting the Child’s Welfare
- Desire of the Parents and Any Agreement Between the Parties
- Potentiality of Maintaining Family Relations
- Child Preference
- Age, Health, and Sex of the Child
- Number of Children Involved
- Residences of Each Parent and Potential for Visitation
- Length of Any Separation From the Parents
- Prior Voluntary Abandonment
- Relationship Established Between the Child and Each Parent
- Potential Disruption of Child’s Social and School Life
- Geographic Proximity of Parental Homes
- Demands of Parental Employment on Parent’s Time
- Sincerity of Parents’ Request for Custody
- Material Opportunities Affecting the Child’s Life
- Financial Status of the Parents
Stability and continuity of the child’s life
Maryland law seeks to provide stability and permanence of the child’s life during custody cases. As a result, it is very uncommon for the court to make a decision that causes a dramatic change to a child’s routines or social ties. Such changes usually occur when other factors, such as the child’s safety, make them necessary.
Parents can agree on continuity issues during custody negotiations. For example, they could decide to let the child spend the majority of their time at the home with which they are most familiar.
A child custody lawyer can build arguments that help a parent prove that they can provide the necessary continuity for their children.
Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
The financial stability of each parent is a significant consideration for Maryland courts when determining child custody. The court is obligated to consider a number of variables when deciding which parent is better suited to provide for a child.
Each parent’s resources and housing circumstances may be considered. These include the financial situation of each parent and their ability to provide a safe place to live and study, transportation, and other necessities that kids need to live a full and productive life.
Maryland courts may consider child preferences if the child is old enough to make such decisions. Typically, judges will weigh child preferences if the child is 12 or older.
However, judges will never base their decision solely on this factor. They will weigh the other three factors as well.
Child custody proceedings
Child custody proceedings always follow the same set of steps. The goal in these cases is to resolve any disputes or disagreements before the case makes it to court. Child custody lawyers can help with this process by negotiating on behalf of their clients and advising them about the prospects of the case.
Here is a closer look at the four different stages a Maryland child custody case goes through.
Filing a custody complaint
The first step in the process is to file a custody complaint with the court. You will file form CC-DR-004 and deliver a copy to the court and to the other parent, who has 30 days to respond (60 days if they live out of state).
Typically, the parties will schedule a conference with a judge or negotiate with one another to reach a settlement.
Negotiating a custody agreement
Negotiations for custody can entail coming up with demands and providing concessions. Child custody arrangements, parenting time schedules, and other family matters may all be up for discussion and compromise throughout the negotiating process.
Lawyers may or may not be involved in the negotiations. Typically, if parents are divorced or separated, attorneys will negotiate on behalf of the two parties.
Any agreements that happen during negotiations get put in writing and submitted to the court for review.
Mediation and arbitration
Mediation in a child custody issue is an alternative to going to court. It may save both parties time, money, and emotional energy.
Basically, an impartial third party hears legal arguments and makes a decision regarding child custody.
Mediation and arbitration are similar to actual court cases, but they are less formal. Still, the decisions, if acceptable, are legally binding, so it is important to have legal representation during the processes.
Court hearings and trials
The court hearing is when the case ultimately gets decided if there are no agreements during the previous phases of the process. Lawyers help present each parent’s argument before a judge. They may introduce evidence, invite expert witnesses to testify, and build a case for retaining child custody. The judge renders their decision based on what they think is in the child’s best interest. Their decision is legally binding, and they may create court orders to ensure that the parties follow the requirements laid out in that decision.
Role of a Towson child custody lawyer
Towson child custody lawyers play a pivotal role in ensuring the case goes smoothly. Here is a look at the different roles that a child custody or parental rights attorney plays during the custody process.
Advising clients on their legal rights and options
The lawyer can clarify the intricate regulations that govern child custody and assist clients in understanding the rights afforded to them under the law. They also go through the many options available for child custody and help clients in selecting the most appropriate arrangement for their circumstances. Since no two cases are the same, having a custody lawyer who listens and understands your situation is extremely important.
Representing clients in court
Parents do not represent themselves in court. The child custody attorney will present the case, question witnesses, and show evidence to the judge. Attorneys understand how to create persuasive arguments, so they will be invaluable during court proceedings and give you a better chance of a positive outcome.
Negotiating custody agreements on their behalf
A child custody lawyer can work with the other party’s attorneys to find an agreement that works for both parents before the case goes to trial. Lawyers can negotiate without the emotional element that parents are likely to have. Their detachment and understanding of the law make them more likely to succeed in negotiations and avoid a trial.
Gathering evidence to support their case
Gathering evidence is essential for developing a good case in child custody battles in Towson, Maryland. A Towson child custody lawyer will collect evidence to support their client’s case in several ways, such as acquiring witness testimonies and financial records or working with expert witnesses to give insights into the kid’s needs and best interests.
Advocating for the best interests of the child
An experienced Maryland custody lawyer will understand the legal arguments of child custody cases and know how to build a case that argues for the child’s best interest. Ultimately, the goal of custody lawyers is the same as the court: ensuring the child ends up in a safe and supportive environment.
Contact a Towson child custody attorney today!
There are different factors at play in child custody cases. An experienced lawyer, like the child custody attorneys at Lebovitz Law, can help with the nuances of custody cases, ensure you understand your options, and assist with every step. The more experience a custody lawyer has, the better they will be able to translate your unique circumstances into Maryland custody laws.
Custody attorneys can also ensure that parents understand the best needs of the children so that they can create a custody plan that offers continuity, support, and a stress-free environment where their children can develop.
Lebovitz Law offers compassionate advice and passionate advocacy to help you find a custody and parenting plan that meets your needs and the needs of your children. Maryland family law attorney Richard Lebovitz has the knowledge and skills to help you avoid or resolve conflict and create a plan that works. Contact our experienced Towson child custody lawyer today.