There are two parts to custody in the State of Maryland, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education, religion and other matters of significant importance. Legal custody can be awarded solely to one parent or jointly to both parents (there are also variations on joint legal custody, such as having on parent as a tie breaker or a requirement to mediate when parents cannot reach a joint decision or assigning each parent sole legal decision making with respect to different issues, ie Mom makes the decisions on education and Dad makes the decisions on religion and the parents have joint legal custody on religious issues). Maryland courts have held that the strongest factor in determining whether to award joint legal custody is the ability of the parents to communicate with each other regarding the children.
Physical custody pertains to with whom the child resides. Physical custody can be awarded primarily to one parent or it can be shared between the parents. The Maryland case Taylor v. Taylor, 306 Md. 290, 508 A.2d 964 (1986), sets forth a list of several of the factors a Court will consider for the award of shared physical custody. These considerations include:
i. capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare;
ii. willingness of the parents to share custody;
iii. fitness of the parents;
iv. relationship established between the child and each parent;
v. preference of the child;
vi. potential disruption of the child’s social and school lives;
vii. geographic proximity of the parental homes;
viii. demands of parental employment;
ix. age and number of the children;
x. sincerity of both parents’ requests;
xi. financial status of the parties; and xii. benefit to the parents.
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