10 Common Child Custody Questions Explained
When you are facing a child custody dispute, it can be heartbreaking and stressful. There are so many questions to answer and so many ways things can go wrong. Here at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A., we want you to be fully informed so you can make the best decision for your situation.
#1 What is Physical Custody?
Physical custody means being the person with whom a child resides. Legal custody means being the person who makes decisions. In some cases, it may be better to have the child live in one person’s home, due to a host of considerations (school district, proximity to extended family, etc.).
# 2 Are Custody Laws Basically the Same Everywhere?
No. Family law matters like divorce, child custody, visitation, and paternity are state law matters. This means each state’s legislature determines the law, and all disputes are resolved in state court. This is why it’s important to work with a local attorney in your jurisdiction.
#4 How Does a Judge Decide Who Gets Custody?
Family court judges get wide discretion, because they are directly involved in hearing arguments and reviewing evidence. A judge in Maryland will use a set of factors often known as the “best interests of the child” standard. These are nothing more than a lengthy list of considerations a judge must review when deciding what is best for the children. They include things like avoiding changes, keeping the child in the marital home, maintaining relationships with extended family, and safety, health, and wellness, just to mention a few.
#5 Where to the Best Interests Factors Come From?
Some states actually have laws that detail the factors. Maryland’s factors have sort of developed over time through judicial decisions. In a fairly detailed decision in Taylor v. Taylor, 306 Md. 290 (1986), the Maryland Supreme Court outlined the relevant factors and how they are applied.
#6 Can I Seek Temporary Custody?
Yes. Typically custody must be determined in the pendency of a divorce. After all, a contested divorce can take months to resolve. In the meantime, there needs to be some workable arrangement for caring for minor children. In many cases, the person granted temporary custody continues to have physical custody after the divorce. It’s important to not treat this process without the respect and attention it deserves.
#7 We Agree on Everything, so Why Do We Need a Judge?
Only a court of law can order a divorce. It’s just not something you can do privately. That said, if you and your spouse have reached a friendly agreement on all the key issues, an attorney can help you convert those agreements into the legal forms needed to get a court to approve your agreement. The agreement will become a court order that is enforceable.
#8 When Can I Change Child Support?
Upon a change in circumstances. This does not mean you can reduce payments if you quit your high-paying job to do volunteer work. Major life changes are things like:
- New marriage and taking on step children
- Involuntary loss of employment
- Physical injuries and disabilities
- Major financial setbacks
It’s not just the negative stuff, though. If you begin earning more money, acquire a large amount of money, or have additional resources, your ex may be able to seek modification to increase child support.
#9 Is Mediation a Good Idea?
Usually, yes. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution strategy that can help a couple reach agreements on key issues without a formal and public trial. It is done privately with each person represented by an attorney and a neutral mediator present to help reach agreements.
#10 What Can a Lawyer Do to Help?
Family court is sometimes very challenging to navigate. An experienced attorney who routinely handles cases in a courthouse will know the judges and other attorneys and understand not only the statutes and regulations that apply, but also the unwritten “rules” or “procedures” that help make the case move faster and more successfully.
If you need help with your child custody dispute, call Todd K. Mohink today. The attorneys at our Maryland office are eager to assist you throughout each step of your case.