The two types of custody that the courts obey in Maryland are legal and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to having authority on behalf of a child to make important and long-term life decisions. These decisions concern health, religion, education, and overall welfare and care. On the other hand, physical custody in Maryland is about access to and visitation rights to a child. It relates to where a child will live and how often the other parent can visit and spend time with the child.

How to open a new child custody case

You need to fill out a Complaint for Custody or Form CC-DR-004, asking the court to grant you custody. It should be filed with the Circuit Court where the child or either of the parents lives. Give a copy to the other parent and keep one for yourself. The parent who files an initial complaint will pay a court filing fee, which costs $165. Or you can ask the court to waive the fee by submitting a filled out fee waiver form with your complaint.

What if your child lives out-of-state?

For this particular case or scenario, special rules apply. If the child lives in a different state than one of the parents, the UCCJEA (Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) will determine the state that has jurisdiction to hear the case. There are quite a few steps that need to be taken to determine which state will hear the case, so it is best to consult your attorney beforehand.

What to do once you are served with a Complaint for Custody?

You can fill out Form CC-DR-050 to answer the complaint. You need to tick off, depending on your choice, the box admitting or denying the statements in the complaint. If the custody order you want is different from what the party who filed the initial complaint wants, you can file a Counter-Complaint for Custody or Form CC-DR-095. You must provide copies to the other party of everything you file in court.

Deadline of submitting Answers to a Complaint

If you reside in Maryland, you have thirty (30) days to file an answer; sixty (60) days if you live out-of-state; and ninety (90) days, if you live outside of the U.S.

No Answer After the Deadline

As the parent who filed the initial complaint, you may request for a finding of default, using Form CC-DR-054. If the court, upon review, finds that the service process bears no fault, an Order of Default will be issued. This order grants permission for the case to be heard and concluded without any participation or involvement from the other party, who failed to answer the complaint on the day of the deadline.

What happens after the documents have been filed?

First, there will be a scheduling conference with a judge or magistrate to discuss programs supporting a settlement. The court will also conduct hearings, schedule deadlines, and give information regarding parenting plans. If you and your spouse cannot agree on certain things, the judge will schedule a pre-trial settlement conference to discuss the issues in dispute. These issues will then be decided on during a court trial.

What about court programs that support settlement?

Find the family services coordinator in your county. They know the available programs in your jurisdiction. Mediation, custody evaluations, co-parenting classes, and child visitation services and support are a few helpful programs that will help you and your children during and after divorce.

What if we fail to reach an agreement? What happens during a trial?

Child custody trials are presided by and conducted in the presence of a judge or magistrate, not a jury. Hotly contested or disputed trials can be very complex, making it beneficial for you to hire a lawyer. Before making a decision, the court will need other forms of professional suggestion and perspective. During the trial, each side will give an opening statement, present your evidence or proof, and provide a closing argument. Closing arguments are a delivery of what you want and why the court should give you its sympathy and rule in your favor. In case you disagree and find the court’s ruling unfavorable, you may ask for a review.

Do you have any questions regarding child custody in Maryland as it relates to your case? Our family law attorneys can answer your questions and help you move forward with securing the best outcome for yourself and your children. Feel free to call (301) 889-8085 or schedule a consultation online.