Maryland Custody and Visitation Schedules
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
When creating a child visitation schedule in the State of Maryland, it is important to be familiar with some of the laws concerning children involved in a family dissolution.
At first glance, family law in the State of Maryland appears to be spotty and vague, but it is actually very complex. The laws can be found in The Maryland Code, the Maryland Court Rules, and Maryland Case Law, and it is a combination of the three that the court uses to make decisions.
Studying the laws of the State can give you some perspective and give you an advantage when creating your child visitation schedule.
Knowing that there is no "standard" visitation schedule, and being aware of key facts, such as both parents are the natural born custodians of the child and it is only upon a filing a motion with the court that that is changed, and that the State by law does NOT favor one parent over another based on gender (MC § 5-203) in custodial matters, will provide you with the necessary insight to help you create a child visitation schedule that will serve the needs of your child well.
There is no "standard" visitation schedule for the State of Maryland. However, some counties have guidelines in place.
Montgomery County, for example, includes a child visitation schedule in the Montgomery County Guidelines for Effective Parenting. The schedule provides the non-custodial parent, (that lives less than an hour away from the custodial parent), visitation with the child every other weekend from 7pm on Friday until Sunday at 7pm.
It also provides the non-custodial parent visitation with the child one evening during the week that parent does not have the child that weekend. It goes on to include provisions for holidays and vacation times.
You do not have to work with the other parent to create your child custody and visitation schedule, but it is certainly in your child's best interest if you do so.
As parents, you have an in depth knowledge of the needs of your child and your own schedules and availability. If you can set your differences aside for your child's sake, you should be able to create an effective schedule.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, your child visitation schedule can either be made by the court or an officer of the court, such as a mediator.
An effective child visitation schedule is composed of the following elements:
- A regular residential schedule that states when your child will spend time with each of you on a regular basis. The residential schedule should coincide with the type of custody the parents have. Parents sharing joint custody may have more equitable time with their child than a non-custodial or long-distanced parent may have, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
- A holiday schedule that will provide your child time with each of you on holidays and other special days. Many parents typically rotate the holidays, alternating them every year, but you may create the holiday schedule as you see fit. Be sure to include provisions for Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays (the parents' and the child's), three day weekends and any other special days you would like. The times that the "holiday visitation" begins should be listed in the schedule. The holiday schedule supersedes the regular visitation schedule.
- A vacation schedule that permits your child to have extended time with each of you during school breaks and the parents' personal vacation times. The vacation schedule can be less date specific, since the exact dates of personal vacation time may vary. Provisions can be included to provide the other parent with advanced notice and to provide procedures for out of state travel, if permitted.
- Information that helps you with the day-to-day details. Once the parenting time divided, you may want to create some rules that help you follow the schedule. You and the other parent can figure out how you'll exchange the child for visitation, how you'll make changes to the schedule, how you'll handle emergency events (like if your child gets sick at school and someone has to pick him/her up), etc.
If you have these general sections and personalize them to you and your child you should be able to make a schedule that works for your situation.
As you go through the process of making each part of the schedule, you should keep in mind some of the guidelines from the Maryland law.
Here are the rules, found in Chapters 5 and 9, which you should know that can impact your schedule:
- The court can award custody to either parent or to both parents jointly.
- Neither parent is presumed to have any right to custody superior to the right of the other parent.
- Custody and visitation rights can be denied to a parent who has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect.
- The court considers the preference of a child who is sixteen years old, and a sixteen year old child can petition for a change of custody.
- Grandparents can petition for visitation and the court will grant it if the court views it in the best interest of the child.
Basically, you just need to make sure that your custody schedule is in the best interest of the child.
If you think about all of the aspects of your child's life and make a schedule so that your child's needs are met, then you will have a schedule that benefits your situation.
This can help both your child and you adapt to the new family circumstances.
The best interest of the child is the State of Maryland's main concern in all custody cases.
When determining what the best interest of a child is, the court will consider all relevant factors. Some things the court may consider are:
- The wishes of the child
- The willingness of the parents to have custody and to encourage the other parent's relationship with the child
- The suitability of the parents' homes
- The child's history of care
- The child's relationships with any siblings or other relatives
- The moral fitness of each parent
The court will look at the overall circumstances in your child's life and make a decision accordingly.
The top ten cities in Maryland (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Baltimore, Silver Spring, Rockville, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Bowie, Hagerstown, Annapolis, Salisbury, College Park.