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Jack I Hyatt
Attorney at Law 
1866 Autumn Frost 
Lane
Baltimore, MD
21209-1131

 


An aggressive, experienced, custody lawyer, who fully understands the Maryland court system and detailed court procedures, often makes the entire difference between winning and losing your child custody case and avoiding the common mistakes. Our mission is to maximize your rights and options for custody, visitation and child support. We welcome difficult and challenging cases. We feel equally comfortable representing mothers or fathers in every Maryland county. We can render a second opinion if your existing case is not proceeding in a proper direction. Each case is different and past records are no assurance that the Lawyer will reach a favorable result in any future case.

Client Comments

"Thanks for taking over my case and bringing my case to a prompt conclusion and getting everything I wanted. The biggest mistake I made was to file papers on my own because all I did was to waste my time going back and forth to court and nothing ever happened until I retained your office. I was not aware that the court clerks were not lawyers and could not provide legal advice after I filed the initial papers."~~S.W.

"Your representation was outstanding throughout a hard fought contested custody case and getting sole legal and sole physical custody of my daughter, having visitation supervised and getting the mother to pay child support. If anyone needs a father’s rights lawyer you’re the lawyer they should call.~~" A.L.

"My expectations were exceeded when I heard I was awarded primary legal and primary physical custody of my child all visitation was supervised. All of your answers to my questions were directly on target. Many thanks.""~~ K.K.

"Thank you for taking over my case and promptly resolving the difficult issues. Your aggressive representation and clear answers to my questions were excellent throughout the case"~~P.O.

" I was thrilled to learn from reading the court's opinion that your representation resulted in my getting primary custody after a hard contested trial against the mother. If anyone needs a father's rights lawyer, you are the lawyer they need to call.""~~B.C.

"You delivered exactly what I wanted, getting my children back from another state, sole custody, having visitation supervised and child support."~~L.I.

Although I had my doubts about grandparent's or third party's rights for custody, your representation was excellent in having the court award me sole custody of my grandson. Thanks again." J.C.

" Thank you again for your aggressive and persistent representation in a hard fought custody battle that resulted in getting my children back". ~~D.M.

"I appreciate your efforts in completing my difficult case resulting in me getting sole custody, having all visitation completely supervised and full child support. If anyone needs assistance in a child custody case, you are the lawyer they need to call"~~S.M.

"Your aggressive and relentless representation was outstanding in defending and knocking out the complaint for custody filed against me so we did not even have to go to court. Thanks."~~M.H.

"I was skeptical about father's rights until you were able to get sole legal and physical custody awarded to me after a contested trial. Your strategy was brilliant throughout the case."~~C.J.

"Thank you for the conscientious way you represented me in my custody case and dealing with the unusual issues that came up throughout my case.   As the result of your tireless and persistent representation, you were able to get my two sons back for me in a case that seemed to be a constant uphill battle.   Your representation was excellent and you are truly an outstanding dedicated lawyer. "~~H.S.

"Your representation was excellent in obtaining sole custody of both children, having all visitation supervised and getting child support in my Anne Arundel County custody case. Thanks.~~K.C.

" Thanks for filing an extremely forceful contempt action which resulted in the entire child support acreage being promptly paid in full."~~M.Q.

"I wanted to express my thanks for the concern you have shown in representing me with an emergency petition for modification of the existing custody order.   It is not often an attorney will devote Saturday and Sunday hours to be sure all documents are promptly filed and serviced to meet last minute time conditions.   I felt comfortable as your answers to my questions were understandable."~~D.J.

"Thanks for being there in my time of need and for your aggressive and persistent representation. Your representation was outstanding throughout the case"~~L.M.

"Many thanks for a job well done and accepting my divorce case as your tough, persistent and hard nosed representation resulted in protecting my pension"~~M.M.

"The documents you drafted and filed with the court seemed so forceful and intimidating they seemed to be like a knockout punch resulting in our obtaining a judgment by default. Many thanks for a job extremely well done." ~~S.T.

"Your strategy and representation in getting full custody of our granddaughter was outstanding since taking over the case."~~D.B.

"Thank you for taking over my Harford County custody case. Your representation resulted i exactly what I hoped for."~~N.C.

"I am glad I selected you to defend my protective order case as your answers to my questions were directly on target, you advised me not to settle and after a hard fought trial you got the case thrown out of court."~~M.O.

Many thanks for getting my child support reduced.~~L.M.


For the past 40 years Jack I. Hyatt has concentrated in:

  • Child Custody, determining with which parent the child will live
  • Child Support, payments by the noncustodial parent for support of the child
  • Protective Orders, court orders not to harass someone
  • Ex-Parte Orders, orders issued without the necessity to bring a party to court
  • Modification of Existing Court Orders, changes in custody arrangements, support payments, etc.
  • Enforcement of Existing Court Orders, forcing a party to do something or to cease doing something
  • Relocation From State to State Custody Issues, to allow orders issued in one state to be enforced in another state
  • Grandparent Issues - Third Party Custody, allowing visitation or even custody by a grandparent or third party
  • Domestic Violence, assault by one spouse on another 
  • Battered Spouse and Abuse, assault or abuse by one spouse on another
  • Paternity Proceedings, determining whether a party is in fact a biological parent
  • Divorce, dissolution of a marriage
  • Alimony, payment of money to a divorced spouse
  • Adoption, making a child the legal offspring of a party

Frequently, specific knowledge of specific child custody court decisions and Maryland State statutes makes the entire difference between wining and losing.

Filing documents with a court is meaningless without incorporating the specific legal authorities into the documents prior to filing. Busy trial judges who hear many different types of child custody cases may not be as knowledgeable as a dedicated child custody lawyer who can bring specific knowledge to a case which can make all of the difference between wining and losing.

Many cases that have a high potential to win are lost because the correct legal authorities or case precedents were not properly set forth in the documents filed with the court and not properly argued to the court.   "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."Abraham Lincoln"

As a former Assistant State's Attorney, he has gained experience in prosecuting over 20,000 cases for the State of Maryland and has a detailed understanding of all Maryland court procedures. His extensive, training and experience will fully maximize your rights and potential to win your child custody case. Mr. Hyatt's practice is in, and he is fully licensed to practice in, all Maryland counties and Baltimore city.

We will conduct a detailed examination of all facts in your child custody case including, the relationship between all parties, how the conflict arose, who caused the conflict, what laws were broken, what witnesses are available, what evidence is available, the credibility of all parties, what resources are available to best help you and we will pinpoint the very best course of action to win your child custody case.

If your child custody case is not being aggressively pursued, we will render a second opinion. Once your case is accepted, all legitimate issues will be aggressively and vigorously pursued, without compromise. You will be kept informed of the progress of all aspects of your child custody case. He accepts referrals from attorneys who do not feel comfortable aggressively or vigorously pursuing custody, support or family law issues.

Our office represents numerous parties around the country who do not reside in Maryland. If you reside outside Maryland, or more than twenty miles from our office, you can begin your case be mail. Whether you begin your child custody case by scheduling an office appointment, or by mail, what will be done, every sequence, every procedure and the end result will be identical.

Depending upon the fact pattern in your case we may be able to accept your case without the need for hourly fees which most people seek to avoid.   Because our mission is to promote the best interests of children, and we understand fees are an expense you were not planning for, our fees are very reasonable. The fee in your case will be quoted to you prior to your incurring any expense or obligation.

In the event you elect to retain our firm, and we elect to accept your case, we will provide you with a dedicated prompt package that will assist you to systemically organize and detail the problems you are facing and the objectives you are seeking. Upon our review, we will detail each of your options, explain the very best way to proceed and draft the most effective court documents to provide you with the very best opportunity to achieve all of your objectives.

If you are looking for an aggressive custody lawyer, you have just found that lawyer.

You can call to begin your case now 410 - 486 - 1800

JACK I. HYATT
Maryland Custody Attorney
Attorney Credentials:
Former Assistant State's Attorney
Admitted To Practice Before:
The U.S. Supreme Court
All Maryland Courts
Federal District Court
Member:
Maryland State Bar Association 
Baltimore City Bar Association 
Baltimore County Bar Association 
University of Baltimore 
A.A. B.S. J.D. 
Honorable Discharge U.S. Army

Types of Custody

The difference between legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody:

Legal Custody

Legal custody of a child means having the right to make decisions about a child's rearing. A parent with legal custody can make decisions about schooling, religion, and medical care. Courts sometimes award joint legal custody, which means that the decision making is shared by both parents.

If you share joint legal custody with the other parent and you exclude him or her from the decision-making process, your ex can take you back to court and ask the judge to enforce the custody agreement. You won't get fined or go to jail, but it will probably be embarrassing and cause more friction between the two of you which may harm the children. What's more, if you're represented by an attorney, it's sure to be expensive.

If you think you have circumstances that make it impossible to share joint legal custody, you can go to court and ask for a change in custody so that you have sole legal custody. But, in many states, you will have to overcome a presumption that joint legal custody is preferable.

Physical Custody

Physical custody means that a parent has a right to have a child live with him or her. Some states will award joint physical custody to both parents when the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents. Where the child lives primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other, generally the parent with whom the child primarily lives will have sole physical custody, with visitation to the other parent. Joint physical custody works best if parents live relatively near to each other, as it lessens the stress on children and allows them to maintain a somewhat normal routine.

Sole Custody

How can I keep custody of my daughter when her father has a criminal record?

One parent can have either sole legal custody or sole physical custody of the child. In most states, courts are moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent and toward enlarging the role a divorced father plays in his children's lives. Even where courts do award sole physical custody , the parties often still share joint legal custody, and the noncustodial parent enjoys a generous visitation schedule. In that situation, the parents would make joint decisions about the child's upbringing, but one parent would be deemed the primary physical caretaker, while the other parent would have visitation rights.

Courts generally won't hesitate to award sole physical custody to one parent if the other parent is deemed unfit -- for example, because of drug or alcohol dependency, a new partner who is unfit, or charges of child abuse or neglect.

It's understandable that there may be animosity between you and your ex-spouse. But it's best not to seek sole custody unless the other parent causes direct harm to the children. Even then, courts may simply allow supervised visitation, while still ordering joint legal custody.

Joint Custody

Parents who don't live together have joint custody (also called shared custody) when they share the decision-making responsibilities for, and/or physical control and custody of, their children. Joint custody can exist if the parents are divorced, separated, or no longer cohabiting, or even if they never lived together. Joint custody may be:

joint legal custody

joint physical custody (where the children spend a significant portion of time with each parent),

or

joint legal and physical custody.

It is common for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, but not necessarily the other way around.

When parents share joint custody, usually they work out a schedule according to their work requirements and housing arrangements and the children's needs. If the parents cannot agree on a schedule, the court will impose an arrangement. A common pattern is for children to split weeks between each parent's house or apartment. Other joint physical custody arrangements include:

alternating months, years, or six-month periods, or spending weekends and holidays with one parent, while spending weekdays with the other.

Joint custody has the advantages of assuring the children continuing contact and involvement with both parents. And it alleviates some of the burdens of parenting for each parent. There are, of course, disadvantages:

Children must be shuttled around.

Parental noncooperation or ill will can have seriously negative effects on children. Maintaining two homes for the children can be expensive.

If you do have a joint custody arrangement, maintain detailed and organized financial records of your expenses. Keep receipts for groceries, school and after-school activities, clothing, and medical care. At some point your ex may claim she or he has spent more money on the kids than you have, and a judge will appreciate your

Bird's Nest Custody

Bird's nest custody is a joint custody arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns moving in and out, spending their out time in separate housing of their own.

The terms "sole custody" and "joint custody" are somewhat generic.

They represent categories of custody, but custody itself is best understood as a continuum, as unique as the parents who divorce.

Imagine a continuum with parents who are completely cooperative at one end and a single parent raising children alone, with no involvement on the part of the other parent, at its other end. At the cooperative extreme, parents may live next door to each other and the children may go back and forth interchangeably. At the other, the non-custodial parent may have died or disappeared. While the former example is more usual than the latter, your family probably falls somewhere in between

Types of Custody

In general, legal custody refers to whether one or both of the parents make legal decisions regarding the child such as educational, medical or religious choices. A court can give parents joint legal custody, in which case they make such decisions together, or give one parent sole legal custody, in which case that parent makes decisions alone, although the other still has a right to be kept fully informed.Physical custody refers to the child's living arrangements. A court can give both parents physical custody, in which event they share parenting time on an approximately equal basis, or it can give one parent primary physical custody and the other more limited parenting time.

It is possible for a court to award joint legal and joint physical custody to the parents. However, a court can also award joint legal custody, but give one parent primary physical custody. On rare occasions as when one parent is mentally impaired but otherwise a positive influence, a court can award sole legal custody to one parent, with a shared physical custody arrangement.

Factors to Consider

What's best for your children depends on many factors.

You and your spouse would be good candidates for joint legal custody if:Both of you are good parents;

Each of you trusts the other to be a good parent;

Each of you has the maturity to set aside the personal differences that gave rise to the divorce because your primary focus is on doing what's best for your children;

and There is no history within your relationship of domestic violence or other control issues that would make joint decision-making difficult or impossible. The very worst place for children to be is at the center of ongoing conflict between their parents.

Parents Working Together

Regardless of whether or not joint custody is appropriate for your case, please understand that parents can and should attempt to work together in most cases, even when one parent has sole custody. There are unusual situations in which the other parent is so harmful that your duty, as a good parent, is to protect your children from him or her. Fortunately, this is rare. In the vast majority of cases, children of divorce will do best when both parents take a positive and active role, and each encourages an ongoing, meaningful relationship with the other parent.

The Importance of Consulting an Attorney

There are many ways in which custody issues impact divorce.

To explore the various types of custody in adequate detail and evaluate which may be best for your children, consult with a competent domestic relations attorney.

Please keep in mind that custody should be done right the first time. If you enter into a custody agreement that is inappropriate, or if the court is presented with inadequate information upon which to enter orders, the impact on your children can be negative. Even so, once custody orders are entered, they can be extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, to modify.

This is true regardless of whether those orders were the result of negotiated settlement or litigation.

You could end up in court (or back in court if the case was initially decided by a judge) attempting to re-litigate issues you thought were settled. Worse yet, you might be unable to convince the court to change custody and visitation orders that harm your children.

Therefore, it is essential to focus from the outset on obtaining custody orders that best serve their needs.

Attorneys are expensive but children are priceless.

Even if you and your spouse are in agreement about custody and visitation, I recommend you consult with a competent domestic relations attorney before making any important decisions.

Temporary Custody

"De facto" (means "in fact") custody refers to who actually has custody of the child at this time. This can be different from "court ordered custody". In order to formalize custody before you begin litigation, you will need to file for temporary custody.Temporary custody will be based on the "best interests" of the child standard. It is not an "initial" award of custody. Instead it is temporary custody while you wait for the court to hold a hearing.

Sole Custody

- Custody is made up of: legal custody and physical custody. A person with legal custody has the right to make long range plans and decisions for the education, religious training, discipline, non-emergency medical care and other matters of major significance concerning the child's welfare. A person with physical custody has the child living primarily with them and they have the right to make decisions as to the child's everyday needs. Sole Custody is when both legal and physical custody are given to one parent. The child has only one primary residence.

Split Custody

- Split custody is easiest to describe in a situation where there are two children and each parent obtains full physical custody over one child. Some of the considerations that may bring about this result are age of the children and child preference.

Joint Custody

- Joint Custody is actually broken down into three categories: Joint Legal, Shared Physical, and Combination.

Joint Legal custody is where the parents share care and control of the upbringing of the child, but the child has only one primary residence.

In Shared Physical Custody the child has two residences, spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent.

Additionally, you can make your own special joint custody agreement that is any combination of Shared Physical and Joint Legal Custody. One example of this is when there is one residence for the child and the parents live with the child there on a rotating basis.

The court looks very closely at Joint Custody agreements. The most important factor to Joint Legal Custody to Shared Physical Custody is the ability of the parents to talk about and reach joint decisions that affect the child's welfare. If you are constantly fighting over what religion or what school, the court may strike down your agreement.

Other factors include:

willingness to share custody; fitness;

child's relationships with parents;

child's preference;

ability to stabilize child's school and social life;

closeness to parent's homes (primarily a factor during the school year) ;

employment considerations (e.g. long hours, extensive travel, etc.);

age and number of children;

financial status;

benefit to parent.

Additionally, the sincerity of the parties involved is important. The court will want to make sure that joint custody isn't being traded for concessions on other points. Another consideration is whether the grant of joint custody will affect any assistance programs.

Currently, Welfare and Medical Assistance are affected based on the award of Joint Legal Custody. Be sure to check with your contact at any social service agencies before entering into an agreement or you may be jeopardizing your benefits. This list is not meant to be complete and the court will hear anything that they believe to be relevant.

Best interests of the child

Suitability of each parent as custodian Psychological, emotional, and developmental needs of the child Ability of the parents to communicate Prior and continuing care that the parents have given the child Wishes of the child Safety of the child

Custodial agreements of the parents

History of domestic abuse

We zealously represent the best interests of mothers, fathers, grandparents and other interested parties in custody controversies without putting children in the middle of the dispute. We are committed to providing the most effective level of service to each of our valued clients in a caring and compassionate manner. We handle child custody issues including:

What are some common terms?

Legal Custody - the parent with legal custody can make all decisions regarding the welfare, health, and education of the child.

Physical Custody - determines which parent has the actual, physical right to be with the child.

Sole Legal Custody - authority to make all decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child

Sole Physical Custody - placement of the child with one parent only, so that the other parent is excluded from having physical custody of the child. Sole custody is typically awarded when the other parent has abused or neglected the child.

Joint Legal Custody - shared authority over decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child.

Joint Physical Custody - both parents have the ability to be with the child, typically joint physical custody is coupled with a parenting plan to determine who will be with the child at what particular time.

Shared Custody - both parents equally share the legal and physical custody of the child. Typically found only where both parents are able to resolve their personal differences and keep them in check for the sake of raising the child in a caring, nurturing environment.

What is the difference between custodial parent and non-custodial parent?

The custodial parent is the term that is used for the parent that has primary physical custody of a child. Typically the child resides with the custodial parent.

The term non-custodial parent is used for the parent that has the child for a lesser amount of time. Typically the child does not reside with the non-custodial parent except during the time that the non-custodial parent exercises his/her visitation right with the child.

Typically, the child is either with the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent but not both. This arrangement comes as a result of the separation of the parents and both parents maintaining separate residences. The child resides with the custodial parent most of the time and the non-custodial parent spends time with the child during periods of child visitation. This way, both parents get to spend time with the child despite having separate residences.

What is child visitation and a ‘parenting plan’?

Custody and visitation are considered at the same time since the factors and circumstances taken into consideration by the court in making these determinations are essentially the same.

The term "child visitation" refers to the time when the non-custodial parent has the right to be with the child. The custodial parent's right to be with the child is often subject to the non-custodial parent's right to visit with the child.

The term "parenting plan" refers to the agreement between the parents or the court order which defines provisions for custody and visitation. It determines whether one or both parents has the ability to make decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child. The parenting plan also defines when the child is to be with the non-custodial parent.

What are some common arrangements for child visitation?

Child visitation, often pursuant to a parenting plan, can take a variety of forms or schedules. Some common arrangements include some of the following provisions:

(1) Alternate weekend visitation with the non-custodial parent, including "three-day holidays"

(2) Mid-week visitation with the non-custodial parent

(3) Sharing of the child during periods of school recess -winter, spring and summer

(4) New Year's Eve, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with one parent or the other in alternate years (click here for a useful article on holiday visitations)

(5) Mother's Day with Mother, Father's Day with Father

(6) Alternate years on the child's birthday

(7) Open telephone contact by the parent who does not have actual physical custody of the child

(9) Exchange of a few days of visitation here and there as mutually agreed without the need for a change or modification of the court order

What factors go into determining custody and visitation?

The primary consideration is, "What is in the best interest of the child?" The focus is from the viewpoint of the child as opposed to the wants and desires of one parent or the other.

Some states have established a general rule that it is in the best interest of a child to have continuing and frequent contact with both parents and the parent who is most supportive of this concept becomes the custodial parent. If one parent attempts to undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent, this factor could be considered in providing custody or additional visitation to the other parent. In California, the impact of a proposed move on a noncustodial parent’s relationship with his children may be considered a relevant factor in determining what is in the best interests of the child.

The best interest of a child is determined on a case-by-case basis upon consideration of all relevant facts concerning the circumstances of both parents.

Do the wishes of a child have any influence in custody decisions?

Some states (NOT ALL) allow children of sufficient maturity to have an impact upon the determination of custody and visitation by considering their desire to reside with one parent or the other. Judges will listen closely to the child's stated preference and his or her reasons. The child does not have the final say and it will be the judge's decision just how much consideration is to be given to the child's wishes, depending on age, maturity, and the quality of the reasons. The overriding question will always be: what is in the child's best interest?

What if the child's best interest does not coincide with the parents' personal desires?

It may be in the best interest of the child to remain in the home with people he has lived his entire life rather than be uprooted after the loss of his mother and transferred to someone he does not know.

If the natural father challenges the issue and desires custody the court will have a difficult decision to make. If he agrees to the change of custody, the court should most likely grant it. The situation is similar to a step-parent adoption where the state tends to be more lenient in the examination it makes before it grants the change of custody. In this case the natural parent in the household will have passed away; however the child has been living in the home with the stepparent and, if thriving, the court may grant it.

What if both parents agree on child custody and visitation?

This is the ideal situation. Absent extenuating circumstances (such as abuse or neglect), the parenting plan agreed upon by both parents becomes the parenting plan. If the issue of child custody and visitation is not raised in a court action, the agreements worked out between the parents is left undisturbed. The agreement does not have to be reduced to a writing signed by both parents but a written, signed parenting plan is preferable for future reference. In addition, a written, signed parenting plan can typically be entered as a Stipulation between the parties and then issued as a court order for future enforcement purposes.

What if the parents disagree on child custody and visitation?

Most states require both parents who are unable to reach an agreement on the issues of custody and visitation to participate in a mediation session to work out such a plan. In the mediation session, both parents meet with a third-party, typically an experienced attorney or social worker, to discuss relevant factors in an effort to reach an agreement. Many contested issues of custody and visitation can be resolved in a mediation session and this session typically results in an agreement which then can be presented as a Stipulation for issuance as a court order.

Should mediation of custody and visitation disputes fail, the parents can then pursue litigation of unresolved issues. A court hearing will be conducted and evidence presented. Often expert witnesses, such as psychologists and licensed social workers, will be called to present evidence for consideration by the court. After the court has received such evidence, it is then in a position to make an order regarding custody and visitation.

Custody and visitation disputes can be very difficult and expensive to resolve. An agreement by both parents is the preferred course of action since a joint parental decision is more likely to be followed than if an outsider makes a decision for them.

Can expert witnesses be used in custody battles?

Because of their lack of familiarity and formal training in the field, often times judges will put much stock in the testimony and written recommendations of experts in custody disputes. Experts in the field of child psychiatry or psychology or mental health will perform custody evaluations of the family with written conclusions and recommendations to the court based on their observations. The evaluations will cover the activities of each parent, the home life, parenting skills, relationships to the child, and the child’s feelings and preferences. One of two possible outcomes will occur: the recommendation of the professional will be accepted by all parties judges, lawyers, parents or everyone goes off to court to let the judge make the decision.

Does religion enter into the determination of child custody?

No -- theoretically. Whether one parent practices a religion or not is normally not a factor in deciding custody, unless there is evidence of potential or present harm to the child, such as if the parent engages in unusual "cult" activities or has an unorthodox lifestyle that might likely put the child in danger or be detrimental to the best interest of the child.

Does an extramarital affair have an impact on custody?

It could, depending on the facts of the case. Generally-speaking, a discrete affair will normally not be a consideration in determining custody. It will become a significant (possibly negative) factor if the relationship represents a threat, has harmful sexual overtones, or puts the child in embarrassing situations.

The right to have your child live with you

If you decide not to get a custody order, then you and the other parent may legally have equal rights to both of these things. The only method to change the equal right to make decisions about your child and to have your child live with you is by filing for custody of your child.

If there is a live-in situation, the judge will evaluate, among other relevant circumstances, the relationship between the child and the other live-in partner and any evidence of present or potential harm from the situation in determining whether this should be a factor to consider.

Visitation exchanges become problematic when the personal differences between the parents are not settled. In the extreme, a domestic violence case makes the visitation exchanged difficult to handle, especially when restraining orders are in effect (such as an order that both parents are to stay at least 100 yards away from one another and may not go to the residence of the other).

In these difficult cases, visitation exchanges can be conducted in a public place - a restaurant where one parent can sit in the back and then send the child to the front, in a local police station, hospital or library - places where there are a lot of people around who would notice if an argument between the parents erupted. In extreme cases, one parent would leave the child with a visitation supervision monitor and the other parent would arrive fifteen minutes later, the visitation would proceed under the supervision of a third-party monitor, and then the visiting parent would leave 15 minutes before the other parent returns to pick-up the child. Creative visitation exchanges are sometimes necessary to allow visitation while keeping separation between the parents to reduce the possibility for violence between them.

at if the custodial parent wants to move away from the non-custodial parent?

Can nonbiological parents be awarded custody?

Courts in the past have usually awarded custody to someone other than the biological or natural parents in cases of abandonment or chronic abuse. This has begun to change in recent years. Judges are awarding custody to anyone with an interest in the child such as stepparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, surrogates who can introduce evidence as to why they would be the better custodians than the natural parent. Again, the court’s guiding principle may be the welfare of the child.

My ex does not deliver our teenage son at the scheduled times/days. How do I go about enforcing the schedule as worked out in the court degree?

One approach is to have an attorney send a "lawyer's letter" on your behalf to the father explaining that father doesn't get to decide when you see the boy; the court does. This provides a little muscle to show you are serious and that you've gotten a lawyer involved. If the ex is reasonable, he/she may think twice. If dad doesn't show up, the attorney can file a motion for contempt, asking for attorney fees and costs as a sanction.

Also, each time dad doesn't deliver the boy, call the police and ask them to accompany you to the house to get the boy.

What qualifies as a ‘material change of circumstances’?

What is sole custody?

When one parent is given both physical and legal custody, they have sole custody of the child. When a parent has sole custody, the child lives with that parent on a day by day basis, and has the right to make both short-term and long-range plans about the child’s welfare.

What is joint custody?

Joint custody is actually broken down into 3 categories:

Joint Legal Custody- The parents share care and control of the child's upbringing, but the child has only one primary residence.

Shared Physical Custody- The child has two homes, but spends at least 35% of their time with the each parent.

Your Own Custody agreement that is a combination of the Joint Legal Custody and Shared Physical Custody. Example: The child has one home and the parents live there on a rotating basis.(3)

Is there any difference between custody and visitation?

Yes. Custody awards one parent or both parents the right to provide care and supervision for the child, and the right to make long-term decisions for the child. Visitation is sometimes awarded to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. Visitation usually involves timed visits with the child that are either supervised or unsupervised. Visitation does not award decision-making responsibility or long-term care of the child.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of getting a custody order?

Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don't want to get the courts involved. They may have an informal agreement that works well for them or may think going to court will provoke the other parent.Getting a custody order can give you:

The right to make decisions about your child

Who can get custody?

In Maryland, the courts do not automatically favor the mother or the father. It looks at the relationship of each parent with the child. And while grandparents, step-parents and other family members may be awarded custody, the courts favor granting custody rights to the parents.

Can a parent who committed violence or abuse get visitation?

Maybe. A parent who has committed abuse may be granted supervised visitation if the judge specifically finds that there is no likelihood of further child abuse or neglect by the abusive parent; otherwise the court should deny custody or visitation to the abusive parent.If you have evidence of abuse to you and/or your child you (or your lawyer) must show this to the judge at the custody hearing. The judge will look at these types of abuse:

One parent abusing the other.

A parent abusing his/her spouse. Either parent abusing ANY child, not just the child the custody case is about.(4)

I'm the child's grandparent. Can I get visitation?

Maybe. Grandparents have the right to ask the court for visitation, and the judge may give it to you if s/he finds it to be in the best interest of the child.(5)

How will the judge make a decision about custody?

When deciding who will have custody, a judge will try to make an arrangement that s/he thinks is in the best interest of your child. The court will base its decision on many factors. Some of the things a judge will consider are:

Primary Care Giver – Who takes care of the child? Who feeds, clothes, and bathes the child? Fitness – What are the physical and mental abilities of the parent seeking custody? The court will consider evidence of abuse by the other parent to you, the child or any child. Reputation Previous Custody Order Ability to Maintain Family Closeness with family members of the other parent Child Preference- The court may consider hearing the child’s preference and it may be out of the presence of the parents. Though its rare for the court to hear from children under 7 years old, but if the child demonstrates maturity the court may be willing. However, children 10 or 12 years or older, are most certainly to be heard and their opinions are given weight in determining custody. Financial Opportunity Age, Health, Gender of Child Residence of Parent and Opportunity for Visitation- How far does one parent live form the other? Which parent lives closer to the child’s school and social circle? Length of Separation- How long has the parent been separated form the child? Any Prior Abandonment or Surrender of Custody- Is there history of one parent walking out and leaving the other parent alone to cope with the child and home? Religious Views- If you can prove that religious views play an important role in the physical or emotional well-being of the child, the judge may take them into consideration. (6)

Where can I file for child custody? (Which state has jurisdiction?)

Custody jurisdiction is state law. However, most states (if not all) have adopted either the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Maryland has adopted the UCCJEA, which we explain here.

Under the UCCJEA, you can only file for custody in the "home state" of the child. (There are exceptions to the "home state" rule -- see below.)

The "home state" is the state where the child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months. In the case of a child less than six months old, the "home state" is the state where the child has lived from birth. (Temporary absence from the state does not change anything.)

If you and your child recently moved to a new state, generally you cannot file for custody in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months. Until then, the other parent can start a custody action in the state that your children most recently lived in for at least six months. There are some exceptions to this – please see the next section.

Any violation of the notice requirement may be harmful to you in determining future custody and visitation rights.

However, the court will consider the following excuses:

Relocation was necessary due to financial or emergency circumstances Required notice was given in a reasonable time before the need to relocate (15)

Can a relative (brother, sister, cousin) of the noncustodial parent (parent who does not have custody), travel with the child?

If the child is 16 or younger, no. A relative who knows that the other parent has legal custody, may not do any of the following, unless at the time there is a clear and present danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the child:>{?Abduct, take or carry the child away from the parent with custody. Keep the child for more than 48 hours after the parent with custody demands that the child be returned. Hide the child knowing that possession of the child was obtained by another relative without proper permission Help another relative commit any of these violations.

Can a parent who does not have custody have access to the child's records?

Yes. Access to the child's medical, dental and educational records may not be denied to a parent because the parent doesn't have custody. If you want to deny access you can ask the judge to make that a condition in the custody order.

What can the court do if the other parent denies or interferes with my visitation or custody rights?

The court can take any or all of the following actions against the other parent:

Order that the visitation be rescheduled Change the conditions of the visitation or custody order to make sure that the other parent obeys the order. Charge a fine or counsel fees against the parent who denied or interfered with the visitation rights.

If I think that the other parent may abduct my child, is there anything I can do?

If the other parent takes the child out of state or somewhere else in the state in violation of your rights to custody or visitation under a court order, you can file a petition for contempt of court and demand the return of the child. If the other parent has purposefully abducted your child, that parent is guilty of a crime.

A person may not forcibly abduct, take, or carry away a child under the age of 12 years from the custody and control of the child's parent or legal guardian.

Can I be given temporary custody as a part of a protective order against the other parent? Yes, you can be given temporary custody if you had the child with your abuser. This award may help you later if you decide to file for regular custody. For more information on protective orders and how to get one, go to our How to Get a Restraining Order page under your state.You should note that a restraining order will not cover custody of any children that are not your abuser's children.Can I get temporary emergency custody?

A judge may grant temporary emergency custody in extreme situations. You will need to prove to the judge that your child is in immediate danger of abuse and that it is necessary to protect you and your child. A judge will only grant you temporary emergency custody if s/he thinks it is in the best interest of the child.

Types of Child Custody

Physical Custody

Physical custody means that a parent has the right to have a child reside with him or her. Many states will award joint physical custody to both parents when the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents. Joint physical custody works best if parents live relatively near to each other, as it lessens the stress on children and allows them to maintain a somewhat normal routine.

Where the child lives primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other, generally the parent with whom the child primarily lives will have sole physical custody, with visitation to the other parent.

Legal Custody

Legal custody of a child means having the right and the obligation to make decisions about a child's upbringing. A parent with legal custody can make decisions about schooling, religion, and medical care, for example. In many states, courts regularly award joint legal custody, which means that the decision making is shared by both parents.

If you share joint legal custody with the other parent and you exclude him or her from the decision-making process, your ex can take you back to court and ask the judge to enforce the custody agreement. You won't get fined or go to jail, but it will probably be embarrassing and cause more friction between the two of you -- which may harm the children. What's more, if you're represented by an attorney, it's sure to be expensive.

If you think you have circumstances that make it impossible to share joint legal custody (the other parent won't communicate with you about important matters or is abusive), you can go to court and ask for sole legal custody. But, in many states, joint legal custody is preferable, so you will have to convince a family court judge that it is not in the best interests of your child.

Sole Custody

One parent can have either sole legal custody or sole physical custody of a child. Courts generally won't hesitate to award sole physical custody to one parent if the other parent is deemed unfit -- for example, because of alcohol or drug dependency, a new partner who is unfit, or charges of child abuse or neglect.

However, in most states, courts are moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent and toward enlarging the role a divorced father plays in his children's lives. Even where courts do award sole physical custody, the parties often still share joint legal custody, and the noncustodial parent enjoys a generous visitation schedule. In that situation, the parents would make joint decisions about the child's upbringing, but one parent would be deemed the primary physical caretaker, while the other parent would have visitation rights.

It's understandable that there may be animosity between you and your ex-spouse. But it's best not to seek sole custody unless the other parent causes direct harm to the children. Even then, courts may simply allow supervised visitation, while still ordering joint legal custody.

Joint Custody

Parents who don't live together have joint custody (also called shared custody) when they share the decision-making responsibilities for, and/or physical control and custody of, their children. Joint custody can exist if the parents are divorced, separated, or no longer cohabiting, or even if they never lived together. Joint custody may be:

alternating months, years, or six-month periods, or

spending weekends and holidays with one parent, while spending weekdays with the other.

There is even a joint custody arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns moving in and out, spending their out time in separate housing of their own. This is called "bird's nest custody."

Pros and Cons of Joint Custody

Joint custody has the advantages of assuring the children continuing contact and involvement with both parents. And it alleviates some of the burdens of parenting for each parent.

There are, of course, disadvantages:

Children must be shuttled around.

Parental noncooperation or ill will can have seriously negative effects on children.

Maintaining two homes for the children can be expensive.

If you do have a joint custody arrangement, maintain detailed and organized financial records of your expenses. Keep receipts for groceries, school and after-school activities, clothing, and medical care. At some point your ex may claim she or he has spent more money on the kids than you have, and a judge will appreciate your detailed records.

Terms to Know

Indigency - Financial inability to pay court costs or to hire a lawyer.

Indigent - Needy or impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed lawyer at public expense in criminal and child abuse neglect cases, but not in other civil cases.

In Forma Pauperis – In the manner of a pauper. Permission given to a person to sue without payment of court costs because of indigence or poverty.

Information - An accusation against a person for the criminal offense, without an indictment; presented by the prosecution instead of a grand jury. Informations are used for felony charges, not misdemeanors.

Infra - Below.

Infraction - A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment, such as a minor traffic offense.

Inheritance Tax - A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased person’s estate. The heir or beneficiary pays this tax.

Patent - A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his her invention for a term of years.

Penalty Assessment - Procedure in which traffic offender is allowed to mail in a fine plead guilty by mail . Points may be assessed against the person's driving record for penalty assessment offenses.

Initial Appearance - In criminal law, the hearing at which a judge determines whether there is reasonable evidence against a person charged with a crime to hold him her for trial. The Constitution bans secret accusations, so initial appearances are public unless the defendant asks otherwise; the accused must be present, though he she usually does not offer evidence. Also called first appearance.

Overrule - a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error, also, a judge’s decision not to allow an objection.

Parens Patriae - The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.

Peremptory Challenge - The right to challenge a judge or prospective juror without assigning a reason for the challenge.

Perjury - The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.

Jack Hyatt

Permanent Injunction - A court order requiring that some action be taken or that some individual refrain from taking action for an indefinite period.

Personal Jurisdiction - Power which a court has over the defendant's person and which a court must have before it can enter a judgment affecting the defendant's rights.

Personal Property - Tangible physical property such as cars, clothing, furniture and jewelry and intangible personal property such as bank accounts . This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.

Parol Evidence – Oral evidence.

Intestate - Dying without leaving a valid will.

Intestate Succession - The process by which the property of a person who has died without a will passes on to others according to the state’s descent and distribution statutes. If someone dies without a will and the court uses the state’s intestate succession laws, an heir who receives some of the deceased’s property is an intestate heir.

Invoke the Rule - Separation and exclusion of witnesses other than parties from the courtroom.

Irrevocable Trust - A trust that, once it is set up, the grantor may not revoke.

Issue - To send out officially, as in to issue an order. The disputed point in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit.

Joinder – Combining charges or defendants on the same complaint. Where a crime is committed by two people, both may be charged on one complaint. Joinder also applies in civil cases, where parties and claims may be joined in one complaint. joint legal custody

joint physical custody (where the children spend a significant portion of time with each parent), or joint legal and physical custody.

It is common for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, but not necessarily the other way around.

Joint Custody Arrangements

When parents share joint custody, usually they work out a schedule according to their work requirements and housing arrangements and the children's needs. If the parents cannot agree on a schedule, a court will impose an arrangement. A common pattern is for children to split weeks between each parent's house or apartment. Other joint physical custody arrangements include:

Joint and Several Liability - A legal doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other responsible parties cannot pay.

Joint Tenancy - A form of legal co-ownership of property also known as survivorship . At the death of one co-owner, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife.

Injunction - Writ or order by a court prohibiting a specific action from being carried out by a person or group. A preliminary injunction is granted provisionally, until a full hearing can be held to determine if it should be made permanent.

Inspectorial Search - An entry into and examination of premises or vehicles by an inspector for the identification and correction of conditions dangerous to health or safety.

Instructions - Judge’s explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and applicable law governing the case.

Intangible assets - Nonphysical items that have value, such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits. Intangible assets must be taken into account in estate planning and divorce.

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Interlocutory - Provisional; not final. An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal concerns only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.

Interpleader – An action in which a third person asks the Court to determine the rights of others to property held—but not owned—by the third person.

Interrogatories - Written questions asked by one individual in a lawsuit for which the opposing individual must provide written answers.

Intervention - An action by which a third person that may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a individual to the suit.

Inter Vivos Gift - A gift made during the giver’s life.

Oral Argument - An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court and also to answer the judges’ questions.

Order - A written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.

Ordinance – A law adopted by the governing body of a municipality or county.

Judge - An elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law. A judge Pro Tem is a temporary judge.

Judgment - The first disposition of a lawsuit.

Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict – Judgment entered by order of the court for one individual notwithstanding the jury’s verdict in favor of the other individual. A judgment notwithstanding the verdict may only arise after a motion for a directed verdict. jack hyatt

Opening Statement - The first statement made by lawyers for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.

Opinion - A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court or of the majority of judges. A dissenting opinion opposes the majority opinion because of the reasoning and or the principles of law on which the decision is based. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the court but offers different reasoning. A per curiam opinion is an unsigned opinion of the court.

Judgment and Sentence - The official document of the judge’s disposition of the case committing a defendant to prison.

Judicial Review - The authority of a court to correct the official actions of other branches of government.

Jurat - Certificate of officer or person who administered an oath.

Juvenile - Person under eighteen years of age.

Kangaroo Court - Trial in which a person’s rights are totally disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion.

Notice of Lis Pendens - Notice to warn all parts that the title to certain property is in the litigation, and that if they purchase or lease that property they are in danger of being bound by an adverse judgment.

Offer – An expression of willingness to enter into a bargain that is definite or certain in its terms and that is communicated to the offeree. Once accepted, the offer is transformed into a contractual obligation.

Offeree – The person to whom an offer is communicated.

Knowingly and Willfully – Voluntarily.

Negligence - Failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same set of circumstances.

Next Friend –Person acting without formal appointment as guardian for the benefit of a person of unsound mind not judicially declared incompetent, an infant, or other person under some disability. jack hyatt

No-Contest Clause – Provision in a will that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will’s validity will be disinherited.

No-Fault Proceedings - Civil cases in which parties may resolve their dispute without a formal finding of fault.

Jurisdiction - The court’s legal power to hear and resolve specific disputes. Jurisdiction is usually composed of personal jurisdiction over persons and subject matter jurisdiction over types of cases.

Jurisprudence - The study of the structure of the legal system. And the law.

Juror Disqualified - Juror who is excused from a trial.

Jury - Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and render a verdict on matters of fact.

Jury Array - The whole body of potential jurors summoned to court from which the jury will be chosen. Also called Jury Panel.

Non-jury trial - A case tried by a judge.

No Probable Cause – A finding that insufficient grounds exist to hold the person who was arrested.

Parole - The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he she need not serve the rest of his her term.

Individual - A person, business, organization or government agency involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.

Inter Vivos Trust - Another name for living trust.

Judgment on the Pleadings – Judgment based on the pleadings alone. Judgment on the Pleadings is used when there is not a dispute relating to the facts of the case and one individual is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Parol Evidence Rule – When a written agreement is intended to be a complete and final document, then the terms of the agreement cannot be altered by evidence of oral agreements that purport to change, explain, or contradict the written agreement.

Summary Judgment - Judgment given on the basis of affidavits, pleadings, and exhibits presented for the record without any need for a trial. As with Judgment on the Pleadings, it is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one individual is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Objection - The process by which one individual tries to prevent the introduction of certain evidence or the use of a procedure at a hearing. An objection is either sustained that is, allowed or overruled by the judge.

Offense - A violation of a municipal ordinance or state statute.

Notice - Formal notification to a party that has been sued that a civil lawsuit has been filed. jack hyatt

Offeror – The person making an offer.

Nuisance –Unreasonable, unwarranted, or unlawful use of one’s property that annoys, disturbs, or inconveniences another in the use of his or her property.

Nunc Pro Tunc – A retroactive order.

Nuncupative Will - An unwritten oral will.

Oaths - Sworn promises required in court, usually administered by the court clerk.

Jury List - List of jurors containing the names of all the jurors called to attend court or empanelled to try a cause.

Jury Polling - The procedure by which each individual juror is asked to affirm his or her verdict in open court at the conclusion of a trial.

Jury Trial - A trial in which the jury judges the facts and the judge rules on the law.

Justiciable - Claims and issues that can be properly examined in court.

Important Custody Cases in Maryland

Taylor v Taylor 508 A2d 964 holding that a court may award joint custody to both parents.

Montgomery County v Sanders 381 A2d 1154 holding that although conditions in the home of a parent may not be ideal, they need only be adequate.

Nagle v. Hooks 460 A2d 49 holding that a guardian at litem can waive the psychiatrist/patient privilege on behalf of a minor, and that neither parent can assert the privilege against the interests of the other parent.

Cockerhan v. The Children's Aid Society of Cecil County, 43 A.2d 199 holding that poverty alone is not sufficient to deny custody to a parent. Usually the parent with custody can claim the exemption for the child. However, the parents may agree to claim the child exemption on alternate years. In that case, the parent with custody needs to sign IRS Form 8322, Release of Claim to Exemption. Whether or not you are taking the exemption for the child, you may still file as "head of household."

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