Cases concerning child custody can be spotty and difficult to determine. Parents often present legitimate cases for seeking custody, leaving the court to consider several factors in making its decision. Primarily, courts consider the child’s best interest when deciding custody. The court’s method of determination involves several issues.

The 1986 case of Taylor vs. Taylor established the factors that Maryland courts use in determining the child’s best interests.  Courts in Maryland determine the best interest of the child based on what has come to be known as the Taylor Factors:

The Taylor Factors are:

1) Capacity of the parents to communicate and to reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare;
2) Willingness of the parents to share custody;
3) Fitness of the parents;
4) Relationship established between the child and each parent;
5) Preferences of the child;
6) Potential disruption of the child’s social and school life;
7) Geographic proximity of the parental homes;
8) Demands of parental employment;
9) Age and number of children;
10) Sincerity of the parent’s request;
11) Financial status of the parents;
12) Impact on state or federal assistance;
13) Benefit to parents; and
14) any other factors deemed to be relevant.

In many states, courts will presume that joint custody is automatically in the best interest of the child and several other factors would be needed to steer the court away from that decision. Maryland, however, prioritizes the Taylor Factors in its decision and does not assume that joint custody is best for the child.

Over time, courts have changed as to what they seek in awarding custody. For example, Maryland courts once presumed that the mother was the best fit for the child if all other factors were relatively straightforward. Now, either parent is equally considered in awarding custody. As in other cases, courts refer to prior judgments in order to make a determination. Child custody cases may be subjective and differ on a case-by-case basis. It is difficult to determine a prescribed, concrete method in order to handle these cases.

The courts ultimately wish to preserve the child’s childhood. The child’s preference of living situation could factor into the court’s decision and the judge will often speak with the child differently than in any other court case. No one factor absolutely outweighs another. Reputation, family relationships, and the general caregiver may provide courts with a well-rounded representation of what is in the child’s best interest.

So many elements transform the lives of the divorcing individuals. The courts recognize and consider this when awarding custody. Joint custody is a likely outcome if no particular set of factors sways a court toward one parent or another. In Maryland, even when sole custody is awarded, child custody laws often give visitation rights to the other parent.

Courts weigh a number of factors in making child custody decisions.  If you or someone you know is seeking custody of their child, you need an attorney experienced in helping you maximize your likelihood of success.  For help with any child custody or visitation issue, contact the attorneys at the Odusami Law Firm at (301) 490-0211.