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Common Questions Regarding Child Custody In Maryland

It is important to be aware that Maryland Courts and Orders recognize two parts to custody in the State of Maryland, physical custody and legal custody.

What does Physical Custody mean in Maryland?

If you have physical custody of your child, it means that you have the right and obligation to provide a home for your child at given times, and to make the day-to-day decisions required during the time your child is actually with you. In Maryland, physical custody can be primarily with one parent and your child visits the other parent or shared between the parents.

What does Legal Custody mean in Maryland ?

If you have legal custody of your child, it means that you have the right and obligation to make long range decisions involving education, religious training, discipline, medical care, and other matters of major significance concerning the life and welfare of your child. It is important to understand that legal custody has nothing to do with where your child lives. In Maryland, legal custody can be sole, joint, or joint with tiebreaker.  Sole legal custody means one parent makes these decisions without the need to have the input of the other parent.  Joint legal custody means both parents work together to make agreed upon decisions for their child. Joint custody with tiebreaker requires both parents to work towards an agreed upon decision on the issue(s). However, if an agreement cannot be reached after trying to do so in good-faith, the parent with  tiebreaking authority makes the final decision on the issue.

How do Maryland Courts decide custody?

Courts in Maryland resolve custody and visitation disputes between parents based upon a determination of what is in the “best interests” of the child. You should understand that this determination may be different from what might be in your or the other parent’s best interests. A Judge will make this determination after considering the testimony and evidence you and the other parent present during your case. There are a host of standard factors a Judge will consider, but a Judge also takes into consideration the special circumstances of each case provided the evidence is presented. It is important to understand the importance and potential complexity of this determination as it is done on a case-by-case basis.

How can I modify a Custody Order in Maryland?

In order to modify a Custody Order, you must first prove to a Judge that something significant has happened since the initial Order was entered by the Judge. This ‘something significant’ is referred to as a “material change in circumstance.”  A material change is not that you were unhappy with the Court’s initial decision. You must also prove that the change you are asking for is in the best interest of your child. It is important to understand the importance and potential complexity of proving that you have met this standard.

Do I need a Court Order in Maryland?

When a child is born or adopted to two parents, Maryland Courts automatically and informally recognize these parents as having the same rights and obligations to their child. There is no inherent determination of physical or legal custody upon birth of a child. If you and your child’s other parent are dealing with issues such that you need assistance in determining where your child lives, who makes decisions for your child, when the child is with each parent for the holidays, how much time each parent has for vacations and the summer months, etc. a Court Order will be beneficial. A Court Order can help define the rights and responsibilities of each parent and, if applicable, determine the amount of child support that one parent may need to pay to the other in support of the child. It is important to understand the importance and potential complexity of asking the Court to enter a Custody Order.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is a document that defines the specific roles and responsibilities for each parent as they communicate with each other and care for their child or children. The Maryland Courts have created a Parenting Plan, with instructions, to help Maryland families. The Parenting Plan and instructions can be found on the Court’s website here. Currently, Maryland Courts require parents to complete a Parenting Plan during the court process. It is important to understand the importance and potential complexity of completing a Parenting Plan.


If you or someone you know needs an attorney for custody matters, we encourage you to speak to an experienced family attorney at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, LLC who can help you decide the right choice that is specific to your circumstance. For more information, contact Monica Scherer, Esq. at 410-625-4740. 



Monica L. Scherer, Esq. 

(410) 385-2225 


Joseph S. Stephan, Esq. 

(410) 385-2225 


Erin D. Brooks, Esq. 

(410) 385-2225 







Disclaimer: This blog is informative in nature. The information contained herein is not to be considered legal advice and there is no attorney-client relationship formed between Silverman Thompson and the reader. 

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