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Determining the 'best interests of the child' in Maryland

No matter how much acrimony and ill-will two parents going through a divorce may have between them, as parents it is their job to protect their child and give their child the love, stability and support they need during what is a difficult time. For these reasons, in Maryland any child custody and visitation orders must meet the standard of the "best interests of the child."

There are numerous factors a judge will consider when determining what is in the child's best interest, and no one factor trumps another. The following are a sampling of the factors that may go under consideration in child custody and visitation cases.

First of all, who the child's primary care giver is may be considered. Also, the court may consider which parent (or both) can financially care for the child. Furthermore, how old the child is and the child's health and gender may be considered

In addition, each parents physical and mental fitness may be considered. Specifically, whether or not one parent is abusive to the other parent or the child may be considered. Similarly, the parents' character and reputation may be considered.

Sometimes parents are able to reach a child custody and visitation agreement out-of-court. If so, this agreement may be considered. In addition, if the child is old enough to express a preference with regards to child custody and visitation, this may also be considered.

Also, the court may consider whether each parent is able to keep the child's relationship with other family members together. For example, will a parent allow the child to see both sets of grandparents, or other relatives of his or her ex? Similarly, will the parents reside within a reasonable distance to one another that would provide the non-custodial parent with the opportunity to have visitation with the child?

Keep in mind that this list is not all-exhaustive. There are other factors a Maryland court may take into account when determining the best interests of the child for child custody and visitation purposes. In the end, by focusing on the child's needs, it may be possible to develop a child custody and visitation arrangement that benefits not just the child, but the parents as well.

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