Whether you and your partner are married or not has no bearing on your ability to file for custody with the court in Maryland. The process to get started is the same, and can be initiated by either parent. The first step is to file a Complaint for Custody with the court and pay the filing fee. The Complaint must be filed with the Circuit Court in the county where the child lives or where either parent lives. Once filed, the clerk will issue Summons. The Complaint and Summons must then be served on the other parent, who will have an opportunity to respond to the Complaint, and file a Counter-Complaint if they so choose. If the other parent does not respond to the Complaint within the mandated time frame, the court may issue an Order of Default. Where an Order of Default has been entered, the initiating parent can proceed with their request for Custody without the involvement of the other parent. If the other party has responded, the case will proceed in the normal course. The court has resources available to assist parties with coming to a settlement agreement. However, if no agreement is reached then there will be a custody trial where the Judge will make the decision about custody and visitation.
Maryland law does not favor one parent over the other. Rather, there is a presumption that both natural parents are the natural custodians of the children. The standard that the court looks to when deciding custody and parental access is the “best interests of the child(ren)” standard. There are two types of custody that can be awarded: physical custody and legal custody, which can be awarded as joint, sole, or a combination.
Physical custody has to do with where the child(ren) lives physically and refers to who has primary caretaking responsibilities to provide for the child(ren)’s everyday needs such as food, clothing, shelter. Legal custody involves the decision-making authority of the parent(s) in areas such as education, health and medical, religion, and other significant events involving the child(ren).
If you need to file a Complaint for Custody or have been served with a Complaint for Custody, get in contact with the family law attorneys at Krum, Gergely, & Oates LLC today for help with your case.