Child Custody in Maryland

In my video, I mention the ten non-exclusive factors that the court considers when determining the custody of a minor child.  The paramount consideration is what is in the child’s best interests.  These ten factors come from the seminal case of Montgomery County v. Sanders.  The Sanders case consolidates the Maryland’s common law regarding child custody disputes into the following factors:

  1. Fitness of the Parties;
  2. Character and Reputation of the Parties;
  3. Desire of the Natural Parents and Agreements Between the Parties;
  4. Potentiality of Maintaining Family Relations;
  5. Preference of the Child;
  6. Material Opportunities Affecting the Future Life of the Child;
  7. Age, Health, and Gender of the Child;
  8. Residences of Parents and Opportunities for Visitation;
  9. Length of Separation from Natural Parents; and
  10. Any Prior Abandonment or Surrender of Custody.

Many of the cases cited in Sanders stand for propositions that no longer hold true, such as a maternal preference or a parent’s custodial rights being compromised due to adultery (so long as the relationship is not harmful to the child).  Nevertheless, the ten principles above can be interpreted in the context of today’s norms to provide guidance into determining a child’s best interests. 

Moreover, as times change, other considerations become important, such as the work schedules of both parents and the availability of government benefits.  In the case of Taylor v. Taylor, Maryland’s highest court provides a list of factors for joint custody that overlap, and supplement, Sanders.  These factors include the following:

  1. Capacity of the Parents to Communicate and to Reach Shared Decisions Affecting the Child’s Welfare;
  2. Willingness of Parents to Share Custody;
  3. Fitness of Parents;
  4. Relationship Established Between the Child and Each Parent;
  5. Preference of the Child;
  6. Potential Disruption of Child’s Social and School Life;
  7. Geographic Proximity of Parental Homes;
  8. Demands of Parental Employment;
  9. Age and Number of Children;
  10. Sincerity of Parents’ Request;
  11. Financial Status of the Parents;
  12. Impact on State or Federal Assistance;
  13. Benefit to Parents; and
  14. Other Factors.

Clearly, there is a lot to consider in a custody dispute.  If you have any questions or comments about this article or the video, feel free to contact me via Facebook, Twitter, or email.  If you are in a custody dispute, do not hesitate to contact me as well at 410-777-8043 or via the form on this page.