EXPERIENCED COMPASSIONATE WASHINGTON, D.C. CHILD CUSTODY LAWYER
Child custody issues arise when two parents divorce or otherwise dissolve their relationship. If you are getting divorced, recently split from your child's other parent, or had your child's father enter your life again, having the knowledge and skills of a child custody lawyer in Montgomery County can be invaluable. Together, you and your child's other parent must make custody arrangements. If you can't, the family court judge will make them based on what is in your child's best interest.
Hiring an attorney can help you navigate these issues, confident that your rights are protected and that you will receive the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
Child Custody Lawyer in Montgomery County
Maryland courts believe that it's best for children to see and maintain relationships with both of their parents whenever possible. This is true even if the child's parents are never married or get divorced. When a child's parents are no longer living together and in a relationship, decisions must be made about where the child will live and spend their time. If parents can't reach agreements regarding how the child should split their time, the court must become involved to help determine matters of child custody.
Child custody cases are often stressful for all parties involved. However, when you hire a compassionate child custody lawyer in Montgomery County from Tina Sharma Law Offices, you can be confident that they will achieve the best outcome in your case. Many parents facing child custody cases aren't aware of their legal rights or options when it comes to child custody. By hiring an attorney, they can determine their goals and work towards achieving them through negotiations. Child custody attorneys often help with creative solutions that are in the best interest of both the parents and the child. They can also help enforce your rights.
What are the Forms of Child Custody?
There are different types of child custody and different custody arrangements. Keep in mind that Maryland family courts will always order what is in the best interest of the child.
Sole vs. Joint Custody
Sole custody means one parent has custody, whereas joint custody means both parents share custody. Both legal and physical custody can be joint or shared. Still, it depends on the parents' willingness to work together for the child's benefit.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about a child's upbringing. The parent(s) with legal custody has the right and responsibility to make decisions about their education, religious upbringing, and medical care and treatment.
For example, parents with legal custody can decide:
- whether to medicate a child with ADHD
- if their child should be raised in one parent's religion or culture
- if the child should attend public or private school
- whether a child participates in particular after-school activities, clubs, or sports
Legal custody can belong solely to one parent or be shared jointly between them. If both parents share legal custody, they must be willing to compromise and negotiate to make the best decisions on behalf of the child.
Physical custody means whom the child lives with and the right to make day-to-day decisions for them. This type of custody can be shared if the child doesn't live with one parent more than 65 percent of the time. Therefore, parents with physical custody should be prepared to not only provide them with meals and a place to live but also supervise their overall education, discipline them, and ensure their overall health and well-being.
If one parent has sole custody, the other parent will typically have court-ordered visitation with the child. Common visitation schedules are every other weekend, alternating holidays, and summer vacation. Only in rare instances will the court deny visitation to the non-custodial parent—such as in cases of incarceration or abuse.
How Can I Avoid Going to Court Over Child Custody?
When two parents can't agree on how to handle child custody matters, their case will end up in court for a judge to decide. The good news is that parents have the ability to avoid going to court. Sometimes parents have amicable relationships and can work out a custody arrangement that works for them both and is in the best interest of their child. Other times, they need to work with their child custody lawyer in Montgomery County and a mediator.
A trained mediator can help each parent express their needs and desires and see the situation from the other parent's perspective. An attorney can represent you in negotiations with your child's other parent, with or without a mediator involved. They can ensure that your rights are protected and represented during mediation. An attorney may even provide some possible solutions to your disagreements. Once you have reached an agreement, your attorney can assist with paperwork and filing your custody plan with the court so that it can be approved without delay. This paperwork can be cumbersome, confusing, and time-consuming, so it's best to have a legal professional on your side who knows exactly what they are doing.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Maryland?
By law, Maryland family courts must consider multiple factors when determining custody matters for each child. Each case is unique, and what works for one family may not be the best for another family. No matter the circumstances and factors, judges must always order what is in the child's best interest.
Common factors of consideration in custody matters include the following:
- the physical and psychological capabilities of the patients
- who the primary caregiver is, and who generally takes care of the child daily
- parental character and reputation
- the schedule and demands of each parent's job
- the age, health, and sex of the child(ren) involved
- what the child wants—depending on their age and maturity level
- potential disruptions to the child's school or social life
- any opportunities that might impact the child's future
- previous abandonments or surrenders of custody by either parent
- the child's already established relationship with each parent
- each parent's willingness to communicate with the other parent and other members of the family
- if there are other children in the family
Even still, family courts will also respect agreements between the parents if they are made in the child's best interest.
What to Expect From A Child Custody Attorney
At Tina Sharma Law Offices, our experienced and compassionate attorneys know that child custody matters can be highly contentious and emotional. When you work with us, we ensure that you are aware of your parental rights under Maryland laws, which can help you gain a better understanding of your legal standing. In addition, we are familiar with local family courts and judges. We can help you navigate this complex and often draining process.
We can prepare a custody petition demonstrating how your custody request aligns with the child's best interests. Whenever necessary, we work closely with other professionals such as child psychologists, mediators, medical professionals, private investigators, and Guardian ad Litems (GAL) to exercise your legal rights. Our attorneys know what evidence to present to the court to help a judge understand your family's specific situation and needs.
Since child custody cases are quite emotional, it's common for some parents to make angry, snap decisions. With a child custody lawyer in Montgomery County by your side, you can broaden your perspective and reign in your emotions before they potentially increase the tension in your case and result in an arbitrary court custody ruling.
Child custody can be one of the most stressful legal issues a parent will ever face, but unfortunately, it's sometimes necessary. In the best of cases, parents can work out an agreement either on their own or with the help of their attorneys and a mediator regarding legal and physical custody of their child. If they can't, the decisions will be left up to the discretion of the family court judge, who will use many factors to determine what type of arrangement is in the child's best interest.
While you may be unable to change your circumstances or the actions of your child's other parent, you do have control over your attorney, which can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Contact the Tina Sharma Law Offices today at 202-329-6556 or online to schedule your child custody case consultation.
Four Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does a child custody lawyer cost in Maryland?
Maryland child custody lawyers usually charge between $225-$325 per hour. However, some attorney rates can be as high as $350-$400 an hour. The type of custody issues, the need for third-party experts, and the individual attorney hired all impact the total cost of attorney fees.
What do judges look for in child custody cases in Maryland?
Family court judges consider whether someone shows signs of fitness to have custody of their child. This includes many factors, such as:
- criminal past
- time availability
- mental stability
- financial fitness
The judge may benefit from seeing the evidence, such as pay stubs, tax information, medical records, household documentation, and explanations about how you plan to care for the child.
What makes a parent unfit in Maryland?
Under Maryland laws, courts may consider parents unfit for various reasons, such as:
- not setting age-appropriate limits for their child
- not understanding and responding to the needs of their child
- relying too much on the other parent to care for the child
- refusing to cooperate, compromise, or communicate with the child's other parent
- a history of committing child abuse or domestic violence
- a history of drug use or psychiatric illness
Who pays attorney fees in child custody cases?
In general, each parent will be liable for paying their own legal costs and court fees relating to custody arrangements for their children. However, there are some cases where one party may be court-ordered to pay the legal and court costs of the other. For example, suppose one party refuses to cooperate with the other and keeps dragging the case back into court. In that case, the judge might order them to pay the other parent's costs.