Previously, we began looking at the best interests of the child standard and some of the factors courts take into consideration when making child custody decisions. As we noted last time, different states have slightly different approaches to child custody, even if the bests interests of the child standard remains central to the decision.
One area where there are often differences in state law concerning child custody is how courts evaluate joint custody arrangements. In Maryland, there is no presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child, while in other states there is such a presumption. A presumption in favor of joint custody can make it harder for parents to argue in favor of sole custody, unless the circumstances of joint custody are clearly adverse to a child's best interests. In Maryland, the lack of such a presumption can sometimes be beneficial to a parent, and sometimes not so beneficial, depending on the parent's custody goals.
Given that courts look at a variety of factors in making child custody decisions, there are several important reasons to work with experienced legal counsel in child custody arrangement.
1. To ensure the court has accurate information
First of all, it is critical that the court has accurate information about the various factors relating to the child's best interests. Parents don't always know how to advocate for themselves in the context of child custody proceedings, even if they have a healthy confidence in their abilities as a parent and are secure in their relationship with their children. An experienced attorney can help ensure a parent puts the best foot forward in court and presents the best possible case in his or her favor.
In addition, couples often have a hard time remaining objective about one another's abilities as a parent or about one another's relationship with the child. This is true even among couples who are relatively cooperative in child custody matters. Hard feelings, let alone overt animosity, can lead to exaggerations and omissions about the other parent, or even false accusations in an effort to turn the court against a parent and influence the outcome of child custody proceedings. Having an experienced attorney at one's side ensures a parent is accurate in representing information about the other parent so that the court is better able to deliver a fair and impartial child custody decision.
In our next post, we'll pick up this discussion.