Seeking Closure for Your Family
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Child Custody & Support Attorney in Annapolis, Maryland
If you have minor children and the relationship has ended between the parents, it is important to come to an understanding about custody and support for the children. Custody has two components: (1) physical custody and (2) legal custody. Physical custody is where the children reside. Primary physical custody is determined based on the number of overnights that the children spend with each parent. The number of overnights also determines the level of child support that is paid by the non-residential parent. On the other hand, legal custody relates to the parents’ decision making for important issues in the children’s’ lives, such as education, medical treatment, and religious training.
The courts consider a number of factors in determining physical custody. These non-exclusive factors include the following:
fitness of the parents
character and reputation of the parties
desire of the natural parents and agreements between the parties
potentiality of maintaining natural family relations
preference of the child
material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
age, health and sex of the child
residences of parents and opportunity for visitation
length of separation from the natural parents, and
prior voluntary abandonment or surrender.
Montgomery County v. Sanders, 38 Md. App. 406, 420 (1978). Some of these factors have changed over time. For more information, please read my blog on the subject here.
If the parties can reach an agreement about physical custody, a parenting plan can be drafted which outlines the child access schedule, along with the legal custody framework. A parenting plan or other agreement can be prepared by attorneys or by a neutral mediator. In many cases, mediation saves parties a significant amount of money over litigation, but it is still advisable to have an attorney review any draft agreement proposed by a mediator to make sure that you understand the agreement, as well as to make sure that nothing is omitted.
Once the child access schedule is established, child support will be determined through application of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. In calculating child support, one must consider the amount of overnight visits each parent has with the child. Shared physical custody reduces the overall child support obligation as compared to a sole physical custody situation. For many years, shared custody began when a parent reached 35% of the overnights (128 overnights) per year. However, as of October 1, 2020, Shared Custody has effectively been reduced to 25% of overnights (92 overnights) per year. When a parent reaches this threshold, the shared custody guidelines are applied.
While child support is primarily a mathematical calculation based on the parties’ respective monthly incomes (before taxes), less various deductions, including daycare and the children’s health insurance coverage, there nevertheless can be room for negotiation or deviation from the Guidelines. I have over 25 years of experience working with the Child Support Guidelines and can review with you a range of possible outcomes in your case based on the information that is known about your income and the other side’s income.