Bethesda Child Custody Lawyers Supporting Parents and Children in Difficult Times
Strong advocacy in Montgomery County child custody disputes
Divorce and separation cause overwhelming stress and anxiety on parents and children. Children wonder where will they live, whom will take care of them, and whom is really making the decisions about their lives. Parents worry that a co-parent isn’t always placing the best interests of the child first.
At McCabe Russell PA, our Bethesda child custody lawyers have helped many parents and children establish the proper legal boundaries for raising, educating, and nurturing their children. We know when parenting plans will work and when the parents will be back in court arguing the merits of the plan. Our attorneys work with child psychologists, the school system, and you to help prioritize how your child will grow into a successful, happy adult. We negotiate reasonable agreements and litigate before a judge when the other parent is being unreasonable.
In Maryland, at what age can a child choose which parent they want to live with when their parents are divorcing?
In Maryland, a child cannot choose which parent they would prefer to live with when their parents are divorcing. At age 16, a child can file a petition to request a change in custody, but the court decides how much weight the child's preference will be given in the final decision, and whether the child's preference is in their best interests in the court's estimation.
What are the types of child custody arrangements available in Maryland?
Once paternity is established, usually through the birth certificates or by a DNA test, there are two questions that need to be answered about raising the child.
The first question is, who will have physical custody of the child? The parent(s) with physical custody controls where the child will live until they turn 18. This means more than just living arrangements. Physical custody includes making the child’s meals, cleaning the clothes, monitoring friendships and schoolwork, and making numerous daily decisions for the child.
The second question is. who will have legal custody of the child? The parent(s) with legal custody has the right to make long-term decisions about where the child will attend school, how his or her medical needs will be tended to, and what moral/religious upbringing the child will have.
Many divorced and unmarried parents share both physical and legal custody. Shared physical custody means that no parent has the child for more than 65% of the time. Shared legal custody means both parents have the authority to make decisions, to meet with doctors, and to discuss academic performance with teachers.
Which factors go into determining custody arrangements?
In Montgomery County, the family court judges prefer agreements where parents share legal custody, though judges recognize there are times when it is best that only one parent make the decisions. Courts generally prefer shared physical custody agreements, though they recognize that many times it can be more stable to have the child live primarily with one parent. These are the types of factors that could go into a custody decision:
- Fitness for parenthood. Parents who have a history of child abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or other severe physical or emotional problems may not be entitled to custody.
- The ability to care for the child. Parents should be ready to show they can make the child’s meals, keep the child company, and provide for the child’s daily needs. Parents should be able to show that the child will sleep on a good bed and live in a nice home and neighborhood.
- A willingness to get along with other relatives. Courts like it when parents show that their child will have an extended family, which includes relationships with relatives on their spouse or co-parent’s side in addition to their own relatives.
- The child’s preferences. Older children generally can express an opinion about which parent they live with, though a judge may or may not take them into consideration. The opinions of younger children are often given little or no weight.
What are some other child custody matters to consider?
Our attorneys explain to our clients and argue with opposing counsel the following points:
- If parents do not share custody, then the parent without custody is normally entitled to visitation rights. Standard visitation rights are every other weekend, several weeks during the summer, and split holiday time. There may be some additional time during the week.
- Modification of child custody orders. Once there is an agreement or order for legal or physical custody, custody cannot be changed unless the parents agree or there is a significant change in circumstances impacting the child’s best interests.
- Temporary orders. Courts can enter temporary custody orders in divorces until full rights are granted, so it is clear where the child will live while the parents are contesting custody.
- Parenting plans. If there is an agreement, we prepare parenting plans that clarify open issues, such as how future disputes will be resolved and how the child travels from one house to the other.
Courts, lawyers, and parents must always place the best interests of the child first. Many custody disputes are resolved through mediation or collaborative divorces to avoid the trauma of having a child testify in court.
Types of Cases We Handle
Our Bethesda attorneys handle a variety of cases, including:
Contact an experienced Bethesda child custody attorney today
Reduce the anxiety about who will be responsible for your children by contacting our experienced lawyers at McCabe Russell, PA. We will explain your rights, advise you how child custody is determined, and negotiate agreements unless a trial is the only way to resolve the dispute. We can help you navigate this difficult time and work to keep your children out of court unless it is absolutely necessary. Please call 443-812-1435 or fill out our contact form for more information.
6701 Democracy One Plaza Loop,
Bethesda, Maryland, 20817
Phone: (301) 888-6945