Maryland Divorce & Family Law Attorneys
111 Rockville Pike, Suite #740 - Rockville, MD 20850

Joint Legal Custody Versus Sole Legal Custody

When planning for divorce, most parents are interested in having custody of their children to some degree. When discussing the topic with a Maryland family attorney, some legal terms may come up that are unfamiliar. Your lawyer will take the time to explain these terms to you and how they will affect your everyday relationship with your children. One area often discussed between clients and family lawyers in Maryland is joint custody versus sole legal custody.

Sole Legal Custody

A judge may award sole custody of a child to one parent in cases where the Court does not deem it necessary or appropriate for the two parents to work together. The primary caregiver will have sole custody of the child, including education, extracurricular activities, medical care and other critical decisions.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is typically designated when both parents can share the decision-making responsibility of child rearing, working together to make sure that their physical, educational, emotional and other needs are met. While it won’t be full-time physical parenting for both individuals, there is usually designation of a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent to divide up the amount of time that both parents spend with their children. The custodial parent has primary physical custody, while the non-custodial parent has visitation and limited physical custody. When physical custody is shared, both parents are required to have a minimum number of overnight visits with their children, which is 128.

The Maryland court system firmly enforces the notion that children whose parents are divorced or separated still need the attention and care of both parents. The judicial standard comes down to what is in the best interests of the children. However, there are no hard rules about what constitutes the best interests of the children. Where there is a child custody dispute, the family lawyers representing each of the parent parties can discuss the issues and try to negotiate an agreement. If this doesn’t happen, a judge can step in and make that determination.