Maryland Child Custody Laws

Child custody cases can be exceptionally challenging, given the emotional toll that it takes on parties, especially when custody is part of an overall divorce proceeding. When going through such a trying time, it is important to have legal representation that has a wealth of experience, but also compassion and care, to stand by you and your family throughout the process.

The attorneys of TNS Family Law have a deep understanding of all Maryland-specific child custody laws and are here to provide exceptional legal counsel as you navigate this difficult time. Our primary concern is ensuring the well-being of your child (or children).

In the State of Maryland, there are two classifications of child custody, legal and physical. The courts can grant a variety of custody combinations, such as sole, shared, or joint custody.



Legal Custody

Legal custody determines who will be responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the child. These decisions can include:

  • Education
  • Medical care
  • Religion
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Overall welfare

The judge may decide to grant sole legal custody, meaning one parent is responsible for all of the decision-making, or shared legal custody, resulting in both parents collaboratively making the decisions in the best interest of the child. If parents are granted shared legal custody, they must make a good faith effort to reach mutually agreed decisions regarding the short- and long-term care of their child. In situations where both parents cannot agree, one parent may be awarded tie-breaking authority, which allows them to make the final decision regarding their child’s care.


Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where the child will physically be on a day-to-day basis. One parent may be granted primary or sole physical custody of the child, with the other parent being granted access. The parents may be awarded shared physical custody of the child. There are many schedule iterations, which are reflective of the current circumstances of the parties and child as well as the best interest of the child.


How is Custody Determined?

Each child custody case is unique, and the judge will factor in a variety of items when making their decision, but will ultimately act in the best interest of the child. They may determine that a combination of joint and shared legal and physical custody will permit the child to receive the care they require. If one parent is deemed unfit and there is evidence to support they are unable to properly care for the child, the court may determine it is in the child’s best interest to grant sole custody to just one parent. In certain limited circumstances, supervised access may be appropriate.

The court looks to the factors set forth by prior case law when determining what is in the best interest of the child. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Parent’s ability to financially support the child
  • Home/living situation of each parent
  • Child’s preference
  • Parent’s ability to communicate and agree on decisions related to the child’s care
  • Disruption of a child’s schooling or social life
  • The overall health of each parent
  • Parent’s ability or desire to share custody


Unmarried Parents

In the state of Maryland, both parents, even if they are unmarried, are entitled to the same types of custody listed above, with one additional step. Unmarried parents must prove paternity through a DNA test, a written statement that they are the parent with no objection from the other parent, or by showing a birth certificate that lists them as a parent. Once paternity has been verified, a child custody case will proceed. The court will weigh the same factors and decide in the best interest of the child when awarding custody.


Our Firm is Here to Support You

Child custody cases can be difficult and emotionally draining. The attorneys of Turnbull, Nicholson & Sanders are committed to shouldering the legal burden so you can focus on what matters most, the happiness and well-being of your child. We have the expertise needed to provide you with legal advice and representation in child custody and child support cases. Our primary concern throughout every child custody proceeding is to act in the best interest of your family and establish custody that is in the best interest of the child.


If you need advice or representation related to a child custody case, please contact Turnbull, Nicholson & Sanders, P.A. at (410) 339-4100 or Our team of family law attorneys is here to help guide you.


Related Posts: 
Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?
When A Minor Requires Representation: Child Counsel Attorneys
5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Divorce Attorney
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