Parents may find custody and visitation decisions difficult to negotiate between themselves. At Felsen & Sargent, our Rockville child custody lawyers understand that the decisions you make about your child's wellbeing are extremely important. As knowledgeable family law attorneys, we can help you negotiate an agreement with your spouse. If an agreement cannot be reached, moreover, we can bring your concerns before a judge.Visitation after a Maryland Divorce
Custody and visitation decisions are usually part of a divorce if a married couple has children. In Maryland, these decisions are based on the best interests of the children. Couples are often required to participate in mediation before the court hears a child custody dispute. When a couple is unable to reach an agreement about with whom and where a child will live and how much the other parent can visit or co-parent, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances to make a decision about the custody and visitation arrangement.
Both natural parents are presumed to be appropriate custodians of the children, and neither the mother nor the father is favored. This means it is difficult for grandparents or others to obtain custody over the natural parents. The best interests of the child standard is used to determine where the child should live and the amount of visitation. However, if circumstances change after the divorce, either parent can petition the court to modify an existing custody and visitation order.
In most cases, the court will grant custody to one parent with visitation to the other or will grant shared custody to both parents. When the court makes custody orders, it will consider both legal custody and physical custody. Parents are considered to share physical custody if the child spends at least 35% of the time with each parent, and both contribute to expenses for the child.
The parents' ability to talk about and reach joint decisions is a key factor when the court is considering joint legal custody and shared physical custody. When parents are constantly fighting over some aspect of legal custody, the court may not approve an agreement that they reach through their attorneys or in mediation.
When determining the child's best interests for the purposes of custody and visitation, the court will consider who is the primary care giver, the fitness of each parent, character and reputation, any existing agreements, which parent is better able to help a child maintain family relationships, and opportunities for visitation. In some cases, a judge may interview a child outside the parents' presence to determine the child’s preference.
Visitation is parenting time with a parent who is not the primary custodian of the child. It may or may not include overnight visits. Visitation is awarded based on the child's best interests. If a child's health or welfare is threatened by visitation, a judge may restrict or deny it. However, it is unusual for a court to deny visitation entirely to a natural parent.
If a parent claims the other parent committed some form of domestic violence, the court will need to determine whether there was abuse before making a custody or visitation order. Generally, when domestic violence is found, the court does not award custody or unsupervised visitation to the parent who committed the violent acts unless it finds there is no likelihood of the parent committing future abusive acts. Supervised visitation may be awarded to ensure a child’s safety. A third party, such as an off-duty police officer, may be ordered to supervise the visitation, or the abusive parent may be ordered to pay for the supervised visitation. However, in some cases, visitation may be denied if the court finds the parent is a threat to the child's health and welfare.
Grandparents or others may petition the court for visitation. However, only when there are exceptional circumstances, or a parent has been found unfit, will a grandparent or other relatives have visitation rights with a child if a parent objects.Consult a Rockville Lawyer for a Child Custody Matter
At Felsen & Sargent, our Rockville child custody attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation for parents who are concerned about visitation arrangements and related issues. We represent people in many areas of Maryland, including in Silver Spring, Frederick, Upper Marlboro, and communities throughout Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Call (301) 251-4010 or complete our online form to set up a free consultation.