ROCKVILLE, Maryland. Child custody determinations can be one of the toughest decisions you and your former spouse will need to make when getting divorced. If you are facing a high conflict divorce or just don’t get along with your former spouse, the temptation might be to take your case to trial and let a judge sort it out. However, most child custody lawyers generally advise against this, unless you are facing a situation of abuse, violence, emotional abuse, or are facing other unique circumstances. In most cases, it is in the best interests of the parents and the children when parents can resolve their child custody decisions outside of court with the help of each parent’s child custody attorney. Barkley & Kennedy are child custody lawyers in Rockville, Maryland who work closely with divorcing individuals to help them understand their rights, navigate their child custody agreement, and choose a course of action that will best protect their rights and their children’s rights.

How can you resolve child custody outside of court? Before you begin talks with your former spouse, make a list of things you want, concerns you may have, and issues you’d like to address in the parenting plan. For example, you may want sole custody, may have concerns about things like medical decisions or schooling decisions, and may want to raise issues like bedtime and the child’s activities. When making a list of desires and concerns, it is important to understand that your parenting plan will often involve a series of compromises with your ex. Some parents agree to disagree about certain parenting rules, letting each parent set rules in each house. Others outline important decisions, like religious affiliation and which school the child will attend in the parenting plan. The more specific your parenting plan can be, the less likely you’ll face disputes in the future. However, your parenting plan should be sufficiently flexible to protect the changing needs of your child as he or she grows. A child custody lawyer like Barkley & Kennedy in Rockville, Maryland can help you ask and answer some of the key questions that must be addressed to reach a sound and flexible parenting plan that will work for years to come.

What happens if parents cannot agree to certain terms in the parenting or child custody plan? The case may have to be brought before a judge. According to the Maryland courts, several factors have been considered in making child custody decisions. These factors include:

  • Religion
  • Adultery
  • Abuse
  • The Child’s Desires
  • Financial Situation of Each Parent
  • Residences of Each Parent
  • Prior Abandonment

The courts use the “best interests of the child” standard when making child custody decisions. As a general rule, the courts may favor the “cooperative parent” or the parent it sees as most likely to encourage and support visitation and best provide for the emotional and physical needs of the child. The court will also consider the relationship of the child with each parent and with the child’s siblings, the preference of the child, and how a child custody determination could potentially disrupt the child’s life. The parents’ financial status and work demands each parent faces may also be considered. While these standards are flexible, it also means that they don’t always provide iron-clad guidelines for judges to follow. According to the University of Baltimore Law Forum, the flexibility of the best interest of the child standard means that there is a lack of uniformity in how judges make rulings. If you take your case to court, it can be tough for your child custody lawyer to predict what the outcome might be.

Regardless of whether you take your child custody case to court or settle your case outside of court with the help of your lawyer, your agreement will likely involve some compromises. Barkley & Kennedy are child custody lawyers in Rockville, Maryland who can help you and your former spouse reach a compromise that will be best for your family and children.