Key Provisions for a Custody Agreement in Maryland
When parents divorce, they can enter into a custody agreement. These agreements allow the parents to resolve key issues concerning their children, including legal custody, visitation rights and modifications. If done correctly, the agreement can be adopted by the court into an enforceable order.
Legal CustodyA custody agreement must address how the parents will approach responsibility for decisions related to the child or children involved. The agreement must state whether or not the parties will have joint legal custody, allowing both parents to make decisions concerning child development, religious training education, health and welfare. One party may be assigned to be solely responsible for all decisions related to the children. Or the parties can divide responsibility such that one party is solely responsible for all of the children's medical decisions, while the other party is solely responsible for all of the children's educational decisions. The most common solution is that the parties will be jointly responsible for making these legal custody decisions together as a result of sharing information and engaging in good faith communications to reach a decision.
Physical Custody and Visitation RightsA custody agreement should also address the physical custody or visitation rights of each parent. This ensures that both parents understand when and how they will physically care for their children. Specifically, the parents should ensure that they delineate the visitation rights for: (1) Weekdays: The parents should outline visitation rights for normal weekdays during the school year, including the primary residence; (2) Weekends: The parents should outline visitation rights for weekends during the school year; (3) Summer Vacation: The parents should outline visitation rights for the extended period of summer vacation; (4) Breaks During the School Year: The parents should outline visitation rights for shorter breaks, including winter and spring breaks, Thanksgiving and other related holidays; (5)Federal Holidays: The parents should outline any arrangements for federal holidays, especially when those holidays occur at the beginning or end of a weekend; and (6) Special Days: The parents should outline any arrangements for special days, including Mother*s Day, Father*s Day and applicable birthdays.
Modifications to a Custody AgreementA custody agreement may address how the parents address modifications. If the parents have a dispute or a substantial change in circumstances, the custody agreement can outline next steps. In many cases, the parents will try to negotiate or mediate their differences before returning to court. Ultimately, the Maryland courts are responsible for ensuring the best interests of the child or children involved.