Child Custody

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Columbia Child Custody Attorneys Advocating for the Best Interest of the Children

Help for parents seeking custody and visitation in Howard County

Children often suffer much more than their parents realize when a divorce happens. Children often suffer from anxiety, depression, guilt and other negative emotions when their parents divorce or separate, so it is important that they are given some kind of structure right away.

At McCabe Russell, PA, our Columbia child custody lawyers understand the importance of creating a firm parenting plan that sets forth where the children will stay, with whom, and what the roles and duties of the parents are. Our attorneys help parents and children succeed after a divorce. We negotiate and use alternative dispute methods to resolve child custody issues where possible, but litigate child custody when necessary. Our lawyers are also certified as Best Interest Attorneys.

How is legal custody handled in Maryland?

Ideally, the parents will decide who has legal custody of the children: one parent (“sole” custody) or both parents (“joint” custody). Legal custody is the authorization to make broad decisions about the child’s upbringing and long-term care during the childhood years. Some of the issues we review with parents and assert in court include:

  • Education. Where your child goes to school is the responsibility and choice of the parent(s) with legal custody. Howard County generally favors keeping children in the same school, when the circumstances warrant it.
  • One or both parents need to decide which doctors a child sees, what recommended treatments are advisable and how emergencies are to be handled.
  • Religious and moral upbringing. A decision may be made about the faith of the child and which place of worship the child should attend, if any.

Family courts generally prefer that parents share legal custody unless there is a unique situation. Structure and clear understandings about who makes the long-term and day-to-day decisions for the children are critical for healthy child development; if the court believes that your child’s best interests will be ignored because of the parents’ inability to communicate and make decisions, it may award sole legal custody to one parent.

How is physical custody decided?

In Maryland, both you and your spouse have the right to parent and spend time with your children, barring some exceptions. Physical custody isn’t just about where the child lives. It is about the daily care and raising of the child, including:

  • Making the meals
  • Overseeing the child’s friends
  • Planning activities
  • Reviewing and helping with homework

What factors does the court consider in deciding child custody?

The factors, in addition to the ability to provide for daily needs, that control which parent should have physical custody if that type of custody is disputed, are:

  • Each parent’s physical and mental abilities. Raising a child takes a lot of energy and a lot of time. Parents should be able to put the best interests of their child first and foremost at all times. A parent with certain physical or mental limitations may face additional challenges when it comes to custody, which is why you need a lawyer to protect your rights.
  • The ability to work with other relatives. Courts often favor parents who can get along with relatives on both sides of the divorce divide, including grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and relatives of both parents. A strong family unit is important for child development, and ensuring that your children have access to their family can play a role in the custody decision.
  • The child’s living needs. In addition to a preference to root the child in the same school and home, the family court considers the living arrangements of each parent. This includes the condition of the bedrooms, whether there are other children in the neighborhood and other factors.
  • Any special needs of the child. If children have special needs, the ability to help the child with those needs is also a physical custody factor.
  • The child’s wishes. Young children rarely have any say in who is their physical custodian, but older children may have some voice in the decision.

At what age can a child express their preference for which parent they want to live with in Maryland?

At age 16, the court may take the child’s preference as to which parent they want to live with into consideration when deciding child custody.

Please note that the court will make a ruling based on what is in the child’s best interests. Your child’s preferences may play a role in this decision, or they may not.

Developing a parenting plan agreement

Under Maryland law, in most circumstances both parents have a right to time with their children after a divorce. Ideally, you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will decide how this time is spent and create a parenting plan that reflects your choice. In some cases, however, the Court may intervene, and make the decision for you. Two of the roles we play as your custody lawyers are to help you develop that parenting plan, and to prove to the court your child’s best interests are aligned with, and reflected by, the plan you create.

Our attorneys often work to prepare a parenting plan which details:

  • The legal and physical custody decision, exactly what authorities apply and exactly when the child is with each parent
  • A specific visitation schedule
  • How the child will get from one parent to the other
  • How future disputes will be handled

Parenting plans should be as precise as possible. However, precision does not mean “boilerplate.” You and your former partner can design a parenting plan that is more creative, and more suited to the unique needs of you and your children. The Courts will, generally speaking, go along with this plan as long as it is in the best interest of your children.

Other child custody considerations we handle

Some other custody matters our lawyers negotiate or litigate are visitation rights and temporary custody. If one parent has sole custody, then the other parent will normally be granted visitation rights. Standard visitation rights are alternate weekends, alternate holidays, and several weeks summer vacation.

A temporary custody hearing, known as a pendente lite hearing, may be needed to determine legal and physical custody issues while the divorce is pending, but before a final decree is granted.

Types of Cases We Handle

Our Columbia attorneys handle a variety of cases, including:

DivorceAsset DivisionAlimonyChild Custody
Child SupportSame-Sex DivorceSame-Sex Child Custody/Support

Make the call to speak with a compassionate Columbia child custody attorney today

Children need stability. Parents need to always understand that their child’s interests have the top priority. At McCabe Russell, PA, we are dedicated to helping parents make the right choices for their children. We understand how upsetting and stressful child custody cases can be. Our extensive custody case experience and our work with child psychologists and other consultants for children are just several of many reasons we can guide parents and children through this difficult time. For strong advocacy, please call us at 443.917.3347 or complete our contact form to make an appointment at our office in Columbia, Rockville, Fulton or Bethesda.


Columbia Office

10211 Wincopin Circle
Suite 620
Columbia, Maryland 21044
Phone: (410) 849-6668

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Text Us443-917-3347