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4 Types of Child Custody Under Maryland Family Law


Under Maryland family law, unmarried or divorced parents must figure out child custody arrangements and determine who has control over the children involved. In certain cases, one parent takes complete responsibility for decision-making and care on their children’s behalf. In other cases, both parents share these responsibilities and care for their children jointly.

Before approving a child custody arrangement, the Maryland courts must verify that the terms satisfy the best interests of the children involved. In this context, the courts examine the financial circumstances of each parent, the specific needs of the children involved, and various other factors.

To understand the nuances of child custody arrangements, the following sections will examine four different types of custody under Maryland family law.

  1. Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to a parent’s power to make decisions on behalf of their children. This type of custody enables a parent to determine various aspects related to child welfare, including but not limited to:

  • Where the child goes to school;
  • What religion the child observes;
  • How the child will be disciplined; and
  • What type of medical care the child receives.
  1. Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to a parent’s responsibility for sheltering their children and providing for their everyday needs. In many situations, the children normally live with the parent who has physical custody. And the other parent has visitation rights, seeing the children on a predetermined schedule, such as weekends or holidays.

  1. Sole Custody

Sole custody refers to the situation where one parent has complete control over their children. In these situations, the other parent may not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their children. But they may be able to see their children through visitation rights. There are typically three types of sole custody in Maryland:

  • Sole Legal Custody — One parent handles all important decision-making on behalf of the children involved;
  • Sole Physical Custody — One parent handles all responsibility for providing their children with shelter and everyday care; or
  • Sole Legal & Physical Custody — One parent has complete control over decision-making as well as shelter and everyday care.
  1. Joint Custody

Joint custody refers to the situation where both parents split up the responsibility for making decisions and caring for their children. In these situations, the parents ordinarily enter into a joint custody agreement. Although joint custody arrangements vary greatly from family to family, there are three main categories in Maryland:

  • Joint Legal Custody — Both parents share responsibility for all important decision-making related to their children, even if the children always live with one parent;
  • Joint Physical Custody — The children live with each parent for separate periods of time, spending at least 35 percent of their time with each parent; or
  • Joint Legal & Physical Custody — Both parents have joint control over decision-making as well as shelter and everyday care.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you need legal help with child custody arrangements in Maryland, it can be extremely helpful to reach out to a trustworthy family law attorney. The Bel Air divorce attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including child custody arrangements. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.


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