Over time, relationships and marriages can deteriorate and people split up and/or file for divorce. But one of the most significant questions revolves around who is going to raise the child or children. Read more about the two main categories of custody – legal custody and physical custody – below.
Legal custody refers to the responsibility for making important life decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing, such as medical treatment, education, and religion. In many cases, regardless of which parent has primary physical custody of the child, both parents will share this responsibility, with what is known as joint legal custody. In some cases, tie-breaking authority is given to one parent. In other cases still, one parent will be awarded sole legal custody, meaning that he or she is given the exclusive right to make these major decisions on behalf of the child.
Physical custody refers to which parent the child is physically with at any given time. Generally speaking, whichever parent has physical custody of the child at any given time is responsible for making short-term decisions of daily living, such as what to eat, when to go to bed, and what activities to engage in with the child.
In Maryland, physical custody is either primary to one parent with visitation to the other, or shared between both parents. In order to count as “shared,” both parents must have at least 128 overnights per year with the child. Even though many parents get hung up on the terminology of primary versus shared, the distinction between the two is mainly used to calculate child support payments; child access schedules will always be determined in light of the best interests of the child.
It’s best when parents are able to agree on a reasonable custody and visitation schedule. However, in more contentious cases, sometimes a judge or magistrate will need to determine which parent has primary physical custody, which parent has visitation, and what the visitation schedule will look like.
Every family situation is different from the next, which is why it is important that you speak with a child custody attorney in Carroll County right away. Call our law firm at (410) 871-0003 to speak with an experienced child custody attorney in Carroll County.