Filing for Child Custody in Maryland

By Heather Frances J.D.

When parents divorce, the court makes custody decisions and includes them in the final divorce decree. A Maryland court may award joint or sole physical custody, joint or sole legal custody, or some combination of both. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about a child, such as where the child will go to school or church; physical custody represents which parent the child lives with and takes care of the child's day-to-day needs. If a court gives sole physical custody to one parent, it may also issue a visitation order to the non-custodial parent, allowing him to spend time with the child.

Parenting Agreements

When parents in Maryland decide to divorce, they are encouraged to work out a custody arrangement and parenting plan that works best for their family. Often, the court requires parents to attempt to reach an agreement before the court makes its own decision about custody. If the parents are able to agree, the court will usually approve the parents’ plan, so long as it is in the best interests of the child.

Filing a Complaint

When parents can’t agree, the court will determine custody arrangements. Disputed custody cases usually begin with a custody or divorce complaint. In Maryland, the child must be a resident of the state for at least six months before a parent can file for custody. On your complaint form, you must indicate why you believe it is in the best interests of the child that you be given custody. Once you file your complaint, you must serve the other parent with a copy of the complaint, a summons and any other supporting paperwork you filed with the court. The other parent has a specified amount of time in which to file an answer to your complaint.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


If the other parent doesn’t file an answer to the complaint within the allotted time, you can request that the court issue a default order to give you custody. If the other parent does answer, you must request a hearing with the court where each parent presents evidence and witnesses to support the case for custody. After the court hears all the evidence, it makes a custody decision that it believes is in the best interests of the child. To make this decision, the court considers aspects of the child’s life such as the relationship between each parent and with the child, the fitness level of each parent and their respective living situations.

Order and Modification

Circumstances may change after the Maryland court issues a custody order. For example, one parent may marry, get a new job or move farther away. If the circumstances change significantly, either parent may request a modification of the original custody order by asking the same court to change it. The parent making the request for modification must prove to the court that the change is in the best interests of the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Mississippi Joint Custody Law


Related articles

How to File a Petition on Custody and Visitation in the State of California

During a divorce, California courts determine custody arrangements for the divorcing couple’s children, splitting both physical custody (who the child lives with) and legal custody (who makes important decisions for the child). However, parents don’t have to wait for divorce to determine custody issues since California allows parents to establish custody arrangements without filing for divorce.

How to File for Child Custody in Ohio

In child custody proceedings in Ohio, parents must demonstrate their proposed custody arrangement is in their child's best interests. If you want to seek custody of your child, you must show that you can provide a stable, healthy, loving environment for your child. Except in extreme cases involving domestic violence or child abuse, judges almost always grant visitation to the noncustodial parent.

How to Amend a Child Custody Decree

To amend a child custody decree, parents will generally need to petition the court that entered the initial order. The exact procedures for amending child custody orders vary from state to state, but typically involve preparing a written order, filing it with the court and attending a hearing on the merits of the changes. Until the judge approves the amended order, the old custody agreement will remain in effect.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Get Child Custody If a Parent Refuses to Sign the Papers

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their ...

What is the Process to File for Child Custody in New Jersey?

Filing for custody in New Jersey is as easy as including the request in your complaint for divorce. From there, the ...

Divorce & Child Custody Family Law in California

California spouses can agree to the terms of their divorce, including child custody, or they can allow the court to ...

The Proper Steps in a Custody Battle

Custody battles erupt over legal custody, physical custody and child support of a child. You can file a petition for ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED