What role does parent disability play in Maryland child custody decisions?

As with all child custody decisions, much (if not all) depends upon the trial judge deciding the case.

But since 2016, Family Law Article §9-107 provides a framework for judges deciding child custody cases involving parent disability.

This follows the Commission on Child Custody Decision Making’s conclusion that “Maryland law can better ensure that child custody determinations involving parents with mental health issues or sensory or physical disabilities are handled in a fair and even manner based on actual evidence and not presumed limitations.”

§9-107 defines “disability” as: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities; a record of having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities; or, being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities.”

What is Child Custody?

In Maryland, child custody has two main parts:  physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody involves where a child lives, when a child spends time with each parent, and any conditions.  Physical custody is also called residential custody or parenting time.  It includes the schedule, holidays, and vacation time, which are often referred to as visitation or access.

Legal custody involves decision making about health, education, and religious upbringing of a child.  It is also called decision making.  By agreement, parents can define legal custody to involve additional issues, such as selection of extracurricular activities, childcare providers, and other important matters about which both parents want to give input and decide.  Legal custody involves communication, consultation, access to information, participation, and making the decision.

A Contract by Any Other Name...Still a Contract

Many family law matters settle. Using many different settlement methods. Whatever settlement method is used, the parties need to get from a shared understanding of the settlement terms to a document confirming those terms. In many cases, this requires a contract, so the settlement is lasting and binding.

However, when parties settle their cases without the benefit of attorneys, a potential risk is making a binding contract without even realizing it or failing to make a durable contract and having the settlement fall apart.

So what is a contract?

Resilience - A Work in Progress

Resilience is not something we have or don’t. Resilience is something we can build – at any age. This New York Times article focuses on practical tips for building resilience in middle age.

“Scientists who study stress and resilience say it’s important to think of resilience as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened at any time. While it’s useful to build up resilience before a big or small crisis hits, there still are active steps you can take during and after a crisis to speed your emotional recovery….

What is an Emergency?

Family clients have many urgent concerns because family cases are complicated. But is every urgent issue an emergency in the Court’s eyes?

Short answer: No.

What is an emergency depends both upon the Circuit Court’s case management plan and the Judge hearing the emergency.

Maryland Rule 16-302 requires Maryland Circuit Courts to have case management plans. A case management plan is a “plan for the prompt and efficient scheduling and disposition of actions in the circuit court”, includes a system for classifying and scheduling cases according to complexity and priority.

On the Journey - When the Trial is Over but the Case is Not

When assessing the advantages and disadvantages of settlement versus trial, it is worth considering what happens after the trial is over. When the trial ends, the case is rarely over.

In Maryland, for 30 days after the ruling, either party has the right to an automatic appeal of a Judge’s decision. An appeal adds to the cost, delays an outcome, and may only cause further uncertainty if granted and a further hearing must be held. All while life marches on, the children grow up and the financial landscape changes. For Magistrate’s, there is an automatic right to take exceptions (which is essentially an appeal) within 10 days of the Magistrate’s recommendations. This stops entry of the court order, requires a further hearing before a Judge, and leaves the parties in limbo until the Judge’s ruling.

At What Age Can A Child Choose With Which Parent to Live?

In short, at no age does a child in Maryland get to choose to live with a parent.

As long as a child is under the age of 18, a child does not have a legal right to decide where or with whom he or she will live.

A few laws give children rights at certain ages, but these do not include choosing where or with which parent a child will live.

As of age 16, a child who is the subject of a custody order can file his/her own petition to request a change in custody.  Family Law Article §9-103 permits this and states:

§ 9-103. Petition by child to change custody

September 9, 2017 Maryland Association for Justice Family Law Section's Family Law Legislative Update

Lindsay Parvis is pleased to present a family law legislative update for the Maryland Association for Justice's Family Law Section's breakfast on September 9, 2017 from 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.!

Find out what divorce, domestic violence, and other family law related laws go into effect October 1, 2017. Learn what 2017 family law legislative efforts stalled in the General Assembly and what may lie ahead in the 2018 Session.

For more information and to register:


Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law. You can follow her on Linked InFacebook, and LindsayParvis.com and subscribe to her Newsletter for discussion, news, and developments in Maryland family law.

New Law on Health Insurance & Maryland Child Support Awards

Effective October 1, 2017, a new law will go into effect, expanding the definition of “health insurance” for child support purposes.  HB926 passed the Senate unanimously and almost so in the House (126-1), and goes into law if not vetoed by the Governor by May 1, 2017 (which is not anticipated).

Currently, when determining child support under Family Law Article §12-204, the child support guidelines calculation shall include “[a]ny actual cost of providing health insurance coverage for a child for whom the parents are jointly and severally responsible…and shall be divided by the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes.” “Health insurance” is not now defined.  HB926 revises Family Law Article §12-201, to define “health insurance” to include medical, dental, prescription drug, and vision insurances.

Congratulations to P. Lindsay Parvis and Amanda Smith for Acceptance into Inns of Court

Dragga, Hannon & Wills would like to congratulate Lindsay Parvis, who has been accepted into the Montgomery County Inns of Court as a Master of the Bench, and Amanda Smith, who has been accepted as an Associate.

Masters of the Bench are judges, lawyers and law teachers who have demonstrated superior character, ability and competence as trial or appellate advocates.

Associates are recent law school graduates or attorneys licensed to practice law in Maryland for not more than five years.

The American Inns of Court is an association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence. Through regular meetings, members are able to build and strengthen professional relationships; discuss fundamental concerns about professionalism and pressing legal issues of the day; share experiences and advice; exhort the utmost passion and dedication for the law; provide mentoring opportunities; and advance the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and civility.


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