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For obvious reasons, child custody decisions are likely to be the most stressful and contentious aspect of any divorce. It is very difficult for most parents to imagine spending any time away from their kids, and most divorcing spouses are not eager to remain in a co-parenting relationship with one another.

At Thomas Sims Law Firm, we understand these fears, frustrations and challenges. Our attorneys have more than 30 years of combined experience in family law, and we are ready to help you seek custody solutions that protect your children and your relationship with them.

The Two Types Of Custody To Be Awarded

In Maryland, courts must determine both legal custody and physical custody of a child. Legal custody refers to the authority to make important decisions on behalf of the child regarding matters like education, health care and religious practices. It is typically shared equally between parents unless one parent has no involvement with the child.

Physical custody refers to how much time each parent will spend with the child and where the child will live. In many cases, courts prefer to keep both parents involved in their child’s life, and shared custody is awarded. This doesn’t necessarily mean that time allocation will be perfectly equal, however.

Courts are required to make custody decisions in the best interests of children, without regard to parent preferences. This is why shared custody is common. In certain cases where one parent is unfit or poses a danger to the children, sole custody can be awarded.

Creating A Parenting Plan Through Negotiation Or Court Order

A parenting plan is a document that provides an outline of how parents plan to raise their child. It covers details about physical and legal custody, including specific dates for physical custody. It can also include details about how major decisions about the children will be made as well as how disputes and disagreements should be resolved. Creating a highly detailed parenting plan is a lot of work on the front end, but it can greatly reduce the likelihood of conflict and the need for parents to return to court.

If you and your co-parent can communicate civilly and are both willing to negotiate in good faith, you can create the parenting plan together with the help of your respective attorneys. This gives both of you the most control over the details of the agreement.

If your spouse will not negotiate or you cannot reach an agreement on key details of the parenting plan, the matter will need to go before the court. While this will produce an enforceable parenting plan, it leaves important decisions to a judge rather than the parents.

Whether your agreement is negotiated or litigated, our attorneys will be there to provide guidance, advice and advocacy throughout the process. We will work tirelessly to pursue the best outcomes for you and your children.

Modifying Custody Orders And Addressing Parental Relocation

Custody awards are binding and enforceable, but they are not always permanent. Courts understand that as children grow and family circumstances change, the current custody arrangement may no longer be in the child’s best interests.

If you or your co-parent has experienced a “material change in circumstances” such that the current order no longer serves your child’s best interests, we can help you petition the court to modify the custody order. Courts are reluctant to make modifications without a compelling reason, however, so we will need to present the strongest possible case for why the order should be changed.

One material change that would likely warrant a custody modification is one parent’s need or desire to move out of state. In most cases when parents share physical custody, one parent cannot unilaterally decide to relocate with the children if it would interfere with the other parent’s custodial rights. Our attorneys have helped many clients address move-away cases and other changes that would warrant a modification.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Custody Questions And Legal Needs

Thomas Sims Law Firm proudly serves clients throughout Upper Marlboro and surrounding areas of Maryland. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call our Largo office at 301-637-3009. You can also reach out online.

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