Child Custody Laws in Maryland

Child custody laws are important for all co-parents to be familiar with especially when going through a custody case themselves. The laws and regulations that are specific to the state you live in may be slightly different from those of other states. Maryland child custody laws are unique in some aspects, making it that much more important to get to know these laws and regulations to prepare for your own custody case.

Types of custody that Maryland child custody laws allow

The types of custody that the Maryland child custody laws and courts typically grant are common with those of most other states across the country. Legal and physical custody must always be defined in a child custody agreement. Legal custody refers to the important decision-making rights and responsibilities for the child. This includes but is not limited to decisions regarding education, religion, and health issues. Physical custody refers to the primary caretaking rights and responsibilities for the child including providing the child with food, clothing, and shelter. It must also be decided whether these two types of custody will be granted solely or jointly. Sole custody simply means that one co-parent holds custody and joint custody means that custody is shared between both co-parents. In cases where sole physical custody is awarded to one co-parent, Maryland child custody laws will typically grant visitation rights to the non-custodial co-parent.

How do the Maryland child custody laws determine custody?

Co-parents are given the opportunity and encouraged by the Maryland family courts to cooperatively come to an agreement on joint custody as a parenting plan. The details of their parenting plan must be submitted to the court for review and approval to ensure that it is in the best interest of the child. If co-parents cannot come to an agreement together the responsibility of deciding issues of custody, visitation, and support will be put in the hands of the Maryland child custody laws and courts.

Maryland child custody laws and courts are common with all other family courts across the country in upholding the best interest of the child over all else in a custody case. Maryland child custody laws also do not initially assume that a joint custody order is in the best interest of the child. Some states across the country initially assume joint custody to be in the best interest of the child and only if the court encounters factors that say otherwise will another type of custody be granted. Maryland child custody laws and courts look at these factors first to determine the best interest of the child and then make a decision of custody based on those factors. These factors can be any relevant information to the wellbeing of the child, including the age of the child, the health of all parties involved, any special needs of the child, and so on.

How have Maryland child custody laws changed?

Like many other states, Maryland child custody laws used to make presumptions that in uncontested cases, the mother is better fit to be awarded custody than the father. These laws have since been changed and now it is not presumed that either co-parent is better fit to be awarded custody than the other. It is not until after the court determines the best interest of the child that the co-parent who is better fit to be awarded custody will be determined. All of this has been changed to ensure that the court upholds the best interest of the child.

This information is not to be used as legal advice. For additional aide and legal information please consult with a Maryland family law professional. For a list of resources in Maryland visit our Helpful Links – Maryland page. The OurFamilyWizard website® is dedicated to providing co-parents with the tools and resources they need to easily manage their custody agreements. After becoming familiar with the Maryland child custody laws, please visit the Child Custody and Divorced Parenting page for more information.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.