If you divorce and have a minor child or children, you and your spouse will have to address child custody issues. Child custody is a legal term that means the right to care for and make major decisions concerning a child. If you are the custodial parent, you will be empowered to make decisions about your child’s schooling, extracurricular activities, religious training, medical care, and similar important decisions regarding all aspects of your child’s upbringing and education. A Bethesda child custody attorney can help you understand how child custody works in the state of Maryland and how to present yourself in the best possible light if you are seeking sole or shared child custody.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
There are two different types of custody. A parent who is awarded legal custody has decision-making authority. This may include decisions about the child’s welfare, education, health, and religion. In some cases, the parents may share joint legal custody, which means they have an equal say in parenting decisions. Alternatively, one parent may have sole legal authority, meaning that the parent has the sole decision-making discretion.
Physical custody is the second type of custody that may be awarded in a child custody case. Physical custody means where the child lives and how much time the child spends with each parent. This is also called parenting time. The court may award shared physical custody. Shared physical custody rarely means a 50/50 split, however, as this can be hard to achieve given the schedules of the parents and the child. If you are awarded primary physical custody, this means that your child spends most of their time with you and less time, typically scheduled in advance, with their other parent.
What Is the “Child’s Best Interest Standard” in the State of Maryland?
In Maryland, judges are required to make custody decisions based on what is in the child’s best interest. This is true regardless of whether the parents have made a previous agreement that they would like to have implemented. The court reviews and takes into consideration a list of factors and evaluates these factors against the interests of the child. All factors are given relatively equal weight in the judge’s analysis. The “child’s best interest” standard was established in 1986 by the Maryland Court of Appeals. These are some of the factors the courts consider as they weigh their decision against the best interest of the child standard:
- Who has been the child’s primary caregiver
- The willingness of the parents to share custody
- Physical and psychological fitness of the parent seeking custody
- The respective character and reputation of the parents
- The respective financial resources of the parents
- Housing situations and the feasibility of visitation for the non-custodial parent
- Any prior custody agreement
- The ability of each parent to help the child maintain family relationships
- Age, health, and gender of the child
- Wishes of the child
- Any past abandonment or surrender of custody
- Parental or child disability
- The depth of the psychological and emotional bond between the child and the parents
Statistics About Child Custody
Here are some interesting facts about child custody, mostly from the 2018 U.S. Census, that might have some applicability to your personal child custody situation:
In more than half of child custody cases, both parents agree that the mother should be the custodial parent.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2018 showed that, in just over half of child-custody battles, parents mutually agreed that the mother should be awarded primary custody of the child(ren). Approximately one-third of these decisions were made voluntarily, without the need for mediation or through the court process. The remaining cases either required mediation, were reached through a state-sponsored custody evaluation, or were resolved in the courtroom.
In nearly 80% of cases, custodial parents in the United States were mothers.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed that, in 2018, four out of five custodial parents in the United States were mothers. This was a decline from 2014 when five out of every six custodial parents were mothers. A conclusion that can be drawn from this is that fathers are gaining custody more often than compared to past years.
Parents settle greater than 90% of custody cases outside of court.
In the vast majority of cases, the parents resolved their custody cases without a family court intervention or a child custody lawyer. A small number of cases required a mediator, but only 4% required a trial.
The average child support received by custodial parents as of 2017 was $3,431 per year.
The 2018 U.S. Census reported that in 2017, the average child support received by custodial parents was $286 per month or $3,431 per year. Between the years 1993 and 2016, child support peaked at $4,675, or $390 per month, in 2003.
Other statistics from the 2018 U.S. Census include these:
- The United States has approximately 13 million custodial parents, representing about 4% of the U.S. population.
- Just over 25% of minor children had one of their parents living outside of their household in 2018, which represents about 22 million children.
- Children in one-parent households were three times more likely to live in poverty.
- Slightly more than half of custodial mothers had full-time employment, while approximately 22% did not have a job.
- Full-time employment for custodial fathers in 2017 was nearly 75%.
Contact a Bethesda Child Custody Attorney
Issues surrounding child custody can be wrenching and are often the most difficult part of going through a divorce. If you are ready to speak with an attorney about child custody, we invite you to schedule a free initial consultation. We have many years of experience, and our clients view us as thoughtful and empathetic during their difficult times. To speak with Bethesda child custody attorney Brandon Bernstein in confidence, please call 240-395-1418 or TELL US HOW WE CAN REACH YOU ONLINE today.