Archive | Legal Custody

Physical custody describes the residence of a child and legal custody describes decision making.

Legal Versus Physical Custody in Maryland


Legal Custody in the State of Maryland – a definition

As with any of our articles in this series, it should be noted that nothing here is a replacement for the advice of a live attorney.  This is not legal advice, just some general guidelines and direction which I hope may help you frame the issues you discuss with a live attorney

After even the most casual review of Maryland custody law, you will quickly observe that custody is described in two ways: legal custody and physical custody.

Physical custody is somewhat clear. It is the more tangible form of custody. Physical custody is an issue of where the child or children principally reside. The more specific definition of shared physical custody versus primary physical custody will be reserved for a future article.

In contrast to physical custody, legal custody is a more intangible commodity.  In Maryland legal custody is defined as the right/responsibility to make decisions regarding the medical care, educational needs and religious upbringing of the child (ren).

What Joint Legal Custody is

If one or the other parents is awarded legal custody to the exclusion of the other parent, that parent has sole decision making power in this regard.  In the case of joint legal custody the parents must confer and agree on these issues.  But, what does that all really mean?

First I should tell you that some of my colleagues may very well disagree with the following opinion.  ln my experience legal custody is like good manners it costs nothing to give it, yet it can make a huge difference in the way you are received.

Most of the divorcing or single parents you know have joint legal custody.  Joint legal custody means that the parents must confer and consult in reaching mutually agreed upon decisions in the best interest of their child, with respect to that child’s medical care educational needs and religious upbringing.

More often than not, these three areas lie at the core of most peoples values and personalities. Consequently, people who enjoyed each others company enough to conceive a child often agree upon these three issues, even if they don’t like each other much anymore.

Nevertheless, people change, circumstances change and sometimes divided parents simply can’t agree on anything. In such a case, joint legal custody will prove to be an empty phrase. A mere representation without any intention of follow through. While such a case can be and an anathema to some touchy feely custody lawyers, my belief is that sometimes you need to “go along to get along.”

Consequently, sometimes it may be a good idea to agree upon joint legal custody, even if you know the other parent won’t really offer discussions or decisions necessary to a strict application of joint legal custody .  There I said it.  Elvis is dead, there are no spaceships at Roswell and lots of people agreed a joint legal custody without any intention following the principles which that entails.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place



Custody and Divorce Legal Forms in Maryland – Online

Maryland Court Forms Online: Circuit, District Courts, Orphans Courts, Etc.

What form to use, Where to file it and when you need a lawyer for Custody in Maryland

Legal forms have been available to the public for years, but the scope of forms that is now available to the public, with instructions, is cracking the legal world in Maryland wide open!

The central repository for this information is managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts and can be found at this link:

The Frederick County Courthouse

Small claims are the closest thing to Judge Wapner’s Court. That type of case, along with the attendant paperwork, has long been the domain of self represented litigants who are long on lawsuit but short on money. So, what’s changed? The cornucopia of domestic relations (family law) forms and information that are now available.

I wonder how many lawyers don’t know about this website? It is incredible! In terms of forms to help people represent themselves with instructions in understandable format, it’s amazing. They have forms and links to everything from Appellate Courts to Wills and Estates.

Make no mistake, the treasure trove is not limited to mere forms. Oh,nooooo! Sure, you can do something as ho-hum as checking for court snow closings and paying traffic tickets, but that just scratches the surface. You can apply for judge or watch a video on the Maryland Court System. OK, maybe that’s not so exciting, but the depth of information on this website is still really amazing. Check it out!

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place




Religious Orientation And Joint Legal Custody

Legal Custody (Religion):

Parents With Joint Legal Custody are

Obligated to Communicate and Cooperate

in matters surrounding the Educational, Medical and Religious Welfare of The Child


If you review the definition of joint legal custody, you will find that where parents have joint legal custody: they are required to communicate and cooperate in reaching shared decisions regarding the medical, educational and religious issues surrounding the child(ren).

Perhaps you can guess that religion is the least frequent point of disagreement. Based on my experience it is only a point of disagreement in less than ten percent (10%) of my cases and only a litigation point in about one percent.

Part of that is because religious orientations are usually the same with both parents. I don’t think I am going out on a limb to suggest that children are usually born to people with similar religious convictions both in nature and degree. I have not had a case where Father was Episcopalian and mother was a Satanist. A lively household to be sure, but not statistically meaningful.

More often than not the religion issue is more of degree than of complete divergence. With some frequency Frederick Maryland custody lawyers are called upon to handle cases where one parent wants a religious school and the other parent does not. Nevertheless even that, in my experience, has been more of a money issue than a real religious objection.

I find the religious issue is more common with young parents who are practically children themselves. Their respective grandparents have their own ideas about the religious upbringing of the grandchildren.

Differences of faith do arise but standing alone it is almost never a “deal breaker.”

Esquire for The Custody Place.

Custody Lawyers in Frederick Maryland


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

Local SEO For Lawyers | Frederick County Maryland


Physical Versus Legal Custody

How Lawyers and Judges Determine Custody in Frederick, Maryland

Physical Versus Legal Custody:  Physical custody describes the residence of a child and legal custody describes decision making.

Lawyers in Frederick are often called upon to describe to define Physical Custody in contrast to Legal Custody.

There are two types of custody with two variations upon the theme:

a) sole legal custody

b) joint legal custody

c) sole physical custody and

d)shared/joint physical custody.

Physical custody is easy.  Physical custody is where your child hangs his or her hat.  It has to do with things like, where is the child’s legal address for documents, school records, passports, learner’s permits etc.  It determines when the child is with each parent.

If both of the parents have not less than 128 overnights with the child it is shared/joint physical custody.

Within the category of physical custody are two competing terms:  “joint/shared” physical custody versus “sole” physical custody.

With respect to physical custody the terms “joint” physical custody and “shared” physical custody are interchangeable and simply have to do with the context.

For example:

If we are talking about child support and giving each respective parent credits for the time he/she has the child(ren) it’s  called a “shared” custody child support guideline.

If we are talking about when the child(ren) are at each parent’s respective home, it’s called a “joint physical custody schedule” OR a “shared custody schedule.”

Either one is fine.

Legal custody is a little more ephemeral

Legal custody is defined as the right or obligation of a parent to make decisions respecting the medical, educational and religious welfare of the child.  I have sometimes likened the distinction between legal and physical custody to the relationship between the owner of a car versus the finance company on the car.  An owner operates the car.  He can go fast or go low.   He can even paint it with flames down the side.  He takes the car home every night.  But if the owner wants to sell the car he must have leave from the finance company.

When parents have joint legal custody the number of overnights does not matter.  Whatever the physical custody arrangement.

Many years ago I handled a custody case in Frederick, Maryland Circuit Court where the father resided in Urbana, Maryland and the mother resided in Ijamsille, Maryland.  The parties had separated years before the divorce and their son was living with father more often than with the mother.

The parents could not agree that rain was wet.  

The judge became more and more impatient over the three days long trial. Each party felt the need to criticize each and every detail of the other parties parenting.  Finally at the conclusion of the case the Frederick judge ordered the father in Urbana to have physical custody of the child but mother in Ijamsville to have legal custody of the child.  I never saw a judge do that before or since that trial.

I think the judge was making a point because his decision required the mother to ask the father for more time with the child, and it required the father to ask the mother for leave to enroll the child in school and to be involved in any other important decisions.  Working under this situation they reached an agreement only a few months after the judge’s decision.

Child Custody Lawyers in Frederick Maryland


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place




Is Joint Legal Custody Right for Me?

Legal Custody – Joint Custody in Frederick Maryland

Legal Custody vs Physical Custody in Frederick Maryland

I sometimes liken the difference between legal and physical custody to
the ownership of a car. If you buy a nice new car and finance the
vehicle, you can be said to have the “physical custody” of that car.

The “legal custody” of the car is it’s title.
You are on that title as an owner, but so is the finance company.

Day in and day out you make physical decisions about the car. Without the need to consult with the finance company. Some not so important, like what kind of gasoline you use and some more important like changes to its engine or its appearance.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day however you must get the joint agreement of the finance company to sell the car or make other major decisions which effect the car.

While enjoying a great deal of autonomy in physical considerations for your child, the person with joint legal custody does not have the final say in issues of religion, education and medical care.

While joint legal custody is a great privilege and a serious responsibility in practical life, it may not be as easy to apply and define. Take for example, a boy who is in the joint legal custody of both parents.

While on vacation with his father in Disney World, the boy breaks a finger:

  1. Father took the boy out of State and did not get the Mother’s permission
  2. The father was allowed to pick whatever doctor or hospital for treatment in Florida and to decide such questions as stitches, etc.

While these parents stood on equal legal footing and had joint legal custody, none of the issues required agreement of the parents, even in these serious circumstances. Now for example, consider a girl who is

in the joint custody of her parents. She is at the mall with her mother and wants to get her ears pierced. The mother is required to get the agreement of Father before she gets her daughter’s earspierced.

I use these examples to demonstrate as follows: If you believe that the most important issue in the foregoing examples are what each parent was required to do, then you are not good candidates for joint
legal custody. Parents who are a good fit for legal custody do not just communicate about the required circumstances.

Joint custody parents believe they should communicate (no matter how briefly) in reaching a shared and mutual decision of what is best for the children.

My opinion should not be taken to mean that parents who have joint custody need to be friends or even to like each other. It means that if communicating and attempting to reach a mutual decision comes naturally in spite of any animosity you feel toward the other parent, then you are good candidates for joint legal custody.

The last issue about joint legal custody is its “catch-22″ quality. If you do not agree that you should have joint legal custody, the judge cannot order joint legal custody. The idea is that by leaving it to a judge to decide means you cannot have it because if you could have it, you would not be fighting about it in the first place.

Legal Custody Frederick Maryland


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place




Avoid Unhappy Holidays

Custody in Frederick Maryland

2 Components that the Court Recognizes

They are

  1. Physical custody

  2. Legal custody.

Legal custody is:

an obligation/privilege to determine issues surrounding a child’s religious, educational and non emergency medical care.

Legal custody does not have to be with one or the other parent, it is usually shared by a child’s parents.

In contrast, physical custody is a more tangible concept.  Many words and euphemism surround physical custody with the respective parents such as:

  • visitation
  •  access
  • shared custody
  • residential custody, etc.

At the end of the day, all these terms are simply a question of “who has the child(ren) and when”. With that in mind, let us shed some light on the who, where and when of holidays.

This article discusses the “who, where and when” of holidays for kids from single and divorced families. For purposes of discussion, holidays in chronological order are

  1. New Year’s
  2. Easter
  3. Memorial Day
  4. 4th of July
  5. Labor Day
  6. Halloween
  7. Thanksgiving
  8. Christmas.

Please note that I included Halloween. Please include Halloween in your discussions about holidays. If you merely “alternate holidays” you may be disappointed to find no banks open or post offices are closed on Halloween. Make sure it is an acknowledged “holiday”.

Sharing  Holidays

In a previous article, we discussed vacation and summertime access. With Fall and a return to school, this is a good time to discuss holiday access. The concept of single parents sharing/dividing holidays with the child(ren) is often the focus of heated and expensive legal debate. It should not be.

The Family Court works under a presumption that holidays should be shared, usually by alternating who has the child(ren) during school breaks and holidays. Let’s deal with the easy holiday first. Father’s Day is with Father and Mother’s Day is with Mother. If that is not a rule you can live by, you need to re-evaluate your thinking.

Believe it or not, Christmas is the second easiest holiday to deal with once you get the rules down.

With Christmas, there is a growing trend for the parents to alternate “Christmas A” and “Christmas B.”
This concept is structured under the idea that the predominant Christmas ritual with children is on Christmas morning.

In such a case, the first parent has the child(ren) on December 24th at noon until December 25th at noon (Christmas A). The second parent has the child(ren) on December 25th at noon until December 26th at noon.(Christmas B).  In some fortunate cases one parent prefers to have Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day. Following that, the parents usually split the balance of the Winter/Christmas break with school aged children.
With respect to Thanksgiving, it usually is best working as an offset to Easter. These holidays both involve a few days off of school for school aged children and they are approximately six months apart. For example, one person would get Easter in an odd numbered year and the other person would get Thanksgiving in odd numbered years.

In even numbered years the roles reverse. Based on that, Easter and Thanksgiving are usually swapped each year. In a similar way Halloween and Memorial Day are swapped unless parents make an agreement to the contrary.

The summer holidays are usually treated as a fall-where-they-fall proposition. That is because summer access with each respective parent tends to be taken in bigger blocks than during the school year.

For example, some parents choose to alternate week by week throughout the summer. Others give the primary or school year parent the first and last weeks of the summer and alternate the rest.

Religious Holidays And Family Traditions

Jewish holidays and other religious holidays sometimes coincide with the Christian equivalent seasonal holidays for example, Passover versus Easter and Hanukka versus Christmas. Furthermore, school districts are attempting to meld administrative holidays.

If the parents are of a divergent religion from one another, it is absolutely necessary to put the respective holidays in any agreement. Just because your Jewish or Christian partner did not celebrate religious holidays does not mean his family won’t. Consider also, that the emotional tumult surrounding divorce and single parenthood can make people of any faith move closer to their respective roots.

Lastly, if you have special family traditions such an annual reunions, don’t trust that your ex will believe they are as important as when you were together. It is very rare for parents to lament that their holiday access schedule is too specific so always spell it out.


Child Custody Lawyers in Frederick Maryland


CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place




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