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How much difference exists in how states deal with child custody?

There are many reasons why it is wise to work with experienced attorneys when trying to navigate family law issues. We've touched on child custody in many of our previous posts - noting that while the overriding guideline all courts use is the best interests of the child, the way that is interpreted can vary greatly.

That is true from county to county in a given state. It is also true from state to state. Each state creates its own standards. This can leave parents facing significant challenges, especially in this day of easy mobility. Parents might not just live in separate cities in Maryland, one could live in Baltimore while another lives in Florida or even New York.

How state systems differ

To appreciate the scope and limits of law in various states consider the following:

In Maryland: Custody could be granted to both parents of a child jointly or solely. Contact with a child could be denied completely if there are some reasonable grounds to think the adult is or has been abusive in the past and is likely to be abusive in the future. From an administrative standpoint, the state's circuit courts have created family divisions or family services programs.

In Florida: The law talks about parental responsibility for minor children. Joint responsibility is presumed and required unless it's determined that such an arrangement wouldn't be in a child's best interest. Ultimate responsibility for decisions in specific areas of a child's life might be granted to one parent or the other. In some cases, rotating custody is possible. To handle family law matters, the courts have established a unified policy under which one judge typically handles all the issues involving one family.

In New York: the standard is supposed to be that neither parent gets preferential custody. Conditions are set by the needs of the child and each county and each borough in New York City have their own family courts to hear custody cases.

Regardless of laws and court structures in individual states, family issues come down to meeting needs of individuals, and that takes compassionate care from skilled legal practitioners.

Sources: FindLaw, "Child Custody: Summaries of State Laws" and "State Family Courts," accessed on Oct. 11, 2017 

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