Custody, Visitation, Child Support
and Child Relocation

There is no presumption in favor of awarding custody to either parent, and the court has wide discretion to act in the best interests of the children. Liberal visitation to the non-custodial parent is the norm. A custody award may be divided into "legal custody" and "residential custody". "Legal custody" can be "joint", where major decisions are made by both parents together, or "sole", where one parent has that responsibility. A "residential custody" award may place the children on any schedule that is in the child's best interests in the court's view, ranging from non-overnight visitations by a non-custodial parent, to a shared arrangement, where the child stays overnight with each parent an equal number of nights, or a substantial number of nights with the non-primary custodian.

Regarding child support, Maryland has enacted Child Support Guidelines, which are principally based upon the number of children, the income of each parent, work-related child care expenses, and any extraordinary medical expenses. Although the court has the power to depart from these guidelines in an appropriate case, it is required to make a determination of the statutory amount and to explain the reasons for the departure. The guidelines apply in cases where both parents' combined monthly incomes total $10,000 or less. In cases where the parents' incomes are greater, the court has discretion to determine an appropriate child support amount, but will frequently apply an extrapolation of the guidelines formula to the parents' combined incomes.

The court may also award use and possession of the family home, and certain family use personal property such as an automobile, to the custodial parent for a period of up to three years from the final decree, in order to promote stability for the children, and also allocate the cost of maintaining the home based upon the equities of the case.

In today's peripatetic world, a parent may desire to move with a child, out of town, across country, or even abroad, for employment purposes, to reunite with extended family, or for other equally valid and legitimate reasons.  A proposed relocation, to a place some distance from the other parent, is often a highly sensitive  issue for all concerned, and such a plan by a primary custodial parent should not be taken for granted. If the parents cannot agree, the court will ultimately decide whether the child will be allowed to move.  After carefully scrutinizing the declared reasons for the proposed move, and weighing what is to be gained and what may be lost in the event of relocation, the court will allow or prohibit the move based upon what it determines is in the child's bests interests.  In cases involving custody and visitation, the court often requires the parties to participate in at least two mediation sessions.

Maxwell Barke & Zuckerman LLC
51 Monroe Place, Suite 806, Rockville, Maryland 20850
Telephone 301.309.8300   Telecopier 301.309.8303
Adjacent to Montgomery County Courthouse  |  Across from Rockville Metro Station