Part of raising children in an emotionally stable, supportive environment after a divorce relies on the type of child custody arrangement that works for the family. In Maryland, parents will have several options for child custody but to reach the ideal arrangement, you should understand the types that are available. As well, courts will award both physical and legal custody in a variety of combinations.
Legal custody and the important decisions for raising a child
Legal custody determines which parent is responsible for making important decisions related to child-rearing. These decisions can include:
- Where and how the child will be formally educated
- What extracurricular activities the child will participate in
- What type of medical care the child will receive
- How religious upbringing will be handled
In many cases, the court awards joint legal custody to parents so that they share in these important child custody decisions even if the parents do not share physical custody. However, in some cases, a court will award sole legal custody to a parent, particularly if there are factors that would affect a parent’s capacity for making these decisions.
Physical custody is all about where the child spends their time
Physical custody is about the time a child spends with each parent. Parents might have shared custody, where the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent or one parent might have sole physical custody while the other parent has visitation rights. In those cases, the child will spend most of their time with the parent with sole physical custody and then see their other parent for a limited time during the week or spend some weekends and holidays with the other parent.
When parents have joint legal and physical custody, they also usually create a parenting plan. This plan will outline when the child will be with each parent and how many other aspects of parenting will be addressed.