Child Custody Attorney in Silver Springs, Maryland
Child Custody, Visitation and Support
One of the most difficult issues to resolve is the issue of child custody; where the child will live and who shares in the important decisions about the child's health, education, and general welfare. The standard by which the Maryland Courts determine custody is "what is in the best interest of the child". Sometimes this standard goes against what the parents think is best. Sole custody means that the child lives with the sole custodial parent and that parent has the sole responsibility for the decisions regarding the child's needs. There are two forms of shared or joint custody; legal and physical. Joint legal custody means that both parents will share in the major decisions regarding the child's health, education, and welfare but the child will reside with one parent who has the physical custody of the child. This means that the non-custodial parent will have rights of visitation, and the obligation of paying child support until the child reaches the age of 18 years. Joint physical custody encompasses joint legal custody but goes one step further by having the child reside equally with both parents. The child support obligation will reflect the amount of time the child spends with each parent. This type of custody arrangement is not commonly awarded unless the family can demonstrate a strong ability to cooperate with each other.
When one parent is awarded the physical custody of a child, the other parent is almost always granted visitation rights. Under normal circumstances, the courts promote liberal visitation but are willing to order a specific schedule, enumerated in the most minute detail if necessary. If one parent is deemed unfit for visitation, the courts can order that visitation be supervised, or in rare instances, denied.
Child support in Maryland is based almost exclusively on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The gross monthly income of both parties is added together and a chart is used which gives the amount of the child support obligation. The non-custodial parent will pay a percentage of the child support obligation equal to his or her percentage of the gross combined monthly income. Here is a simple example: both parents earn $1,000.00 gross per month. The combined monthly income would be $2,000.00. Each parent's share of the combined monthly income is fifty percent. Based on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, the monthly support obligation would be $332.00 per month. This means that the non-custodial parent's monthly child support payment would be fifty percent of $332.00 or $166.00 per month. Additional children, daycare costs, and extraordinary regular expenses can affect the amount of the obligation. It is of note that child support and visitation are not dependent on each other. A parent cannot refuse to offer visitation because the other parent is not paying the required support, and in the reverse, a parent cannot automatically have visitation because he or she has started paying child support.