Child Custody Lawyers Fight for the Best Interests of Your Children in Howard and Montgomery Counties
Helping parents in Columbia, Rockville, Fulton and Bethesda navigate the emotional difficulties in raising the children
The end of the marriage or the parental relationship does not end the duty of both parents toward their children. Children have the right to a safe home with loving guidance by both parents. In the eyes of the court, parents must put the well-being and best interests ahead of their own
At McCabe Russell PA, our child custody attorneys in Howard and Montgomery County help you show the court that your best interests are aligned with those of your children. We prepare our clients for what lies ahead, and help them create plans that protect their children, and their relationships with those children. From our offices in Columbia, Rockville, Fulton and Bethesda, we prepare to fight for the best interests of you and your children.
Understanding legal custody of children
Legal custody is the authority to make “big picture” decisions regarding the children’s upbringing and safety. Specifically, the parent(s) with legal custody makes decisions about:
- Medical treatment. Children need to see doctors for checkups, illnesses, for the injuries they may suffer and for all types of medical problems. The person with legal custody decides which doctors the child sees and what treatments are given in non-emergency situations.
- Education opportunities. Legal custodians choose whether the child goes to a public school or a private school (if the expenses can be covered), makes decisions about additional help (when necessary), and about which extra-curriculars the children may engage in once school ends.
- Religious upbringing. Deciding which church or religious institution your child attends or if the child follows any religion at all is made by the legal custodian.
One parent can be given sole legal custody or both parents can have joint legal custody, where the parents make major decisions together. This can probe problematic when two parents disagree about how to move forward, which is why a parenting plan is both necessary and helpful.
What is physical custody?
Physical custody is residency: where the child physically resides. A parent has “primary custody” if the child stays with that parent at least 65% of the time. Otherwise, both parents are awarded “shared custody,” even if the living arrangement is not evenly split.
The family court, unless the parents can agree, decides which parent the child/children lives with and on which days. The parent with physical custody makes the everyday living decisions for the child.
If the parents are unable to agree about where the child will live, and when, the court will consider these factors (among others) to make its decision:
- Fitness. The psychological and physical abilities of each parent must be considered. Parents with physical or health-related disabilities are often as a disadvantage in custody cases; this is why you want to seek competent legal counsel to represent you in court, if face such challenges yourself.
- Caregiving abilities. Who can best get the child ready for school, feed them, buy their clothes, etc. may be considered, especially if there is documented evidence that one parent is incapable of doing so.
- Where the parents live. A parent who remains in the same town, or in the same school district, may be granted physical custody over the parent who relocates.
- Age, sex and/or gender of the child. No court will grant primary custody of a breast-feeding infant to a father. Though this is, of course, a rather specific example, the court may take factors such as age, sex and gender into consideration when deciding where the child will live.
- The child’s preferences. The preferences of older children may be considered, though ultimately, the court will make the ruling based on what the judge thinks is best for the child. In rare occasions, the opinion of a child under seven may also be considered. This is more likely if there is a Best Interest attorney appointed to represent the child.
Other factors the court may consider are the health of the child, the length of the separation, a prior abandonment and if the child has special needs.
Additional custody considerations
The family court judge or magistrate can make a preliminary decision in a pendente lite hearing about the temporary physical custody of the child/children until a formal hearing can be heard.
Once an order is entered, whether through a court decision or parental agreement, it can only be modified based on another court hearing. Typically, modification of a custody order requires a change in the circumstances that impacts the children’s best interests.
A custody schedule (when the child stays with each parent) should be as specific as possible, and may include information about holidays, vacation time, and even transitions from one parent to the other.
Speak with a strong, caring Howard and Montgomery County child custody attorney today
The child custody lawyers at McCabe Russell, PA help clients create custody agreements in parenting plans, and make certain every agreement or decision is made part of an enforceable court order. We have the skills and resources to fight for your rights in trial, and to represent the best interests of you and your child. For more information, please call us at 443-917-3347 or complete our contact form. We have offices in Bethesda, Rockville, Fulton and Columbia.