Some parents in Maryland who are going through a divorce might have to attend a child custody hearing if they cannot reach an agreement about custody and visitation through out-of-court negotiations or alternative dispute resolution methods. First, parents should make sure they understand the state laws around child custody. Reading about these laws beforehand can help give them an idea of what questions to ask an attorney.

Part of understanding those laws means knowing what a court is looking for under what is called the “better parent standard.” This is used if parents are requesting sole custody to determine which parent is better for the child. An attorney may help the person determine what could be expected to show one parent is the best choice. This could include such documentation as proof of child support payments, a phone call or visitation log and other information that shows the relationship between the parent and the child.

It is also important for parents to present themselves appropriately in court. This includes dressing and behaving appropriately. For example, emotional outbursts could hurt a parent’s case. An attorney can help a parent understand what kind of courtroom etiquette is expected. The attorney can also explain the process to the parent so the parent knows what will happen in court.

Custody arrangements may vary greatly. The child usually spends some time with both parents whether custody is joint or one parent has sole physical custody and the other has visitation rights. Usually, this involves the child traveling back and forth between parents’ homes. However, a few parents use an approach called “nesting.” This involves the child remaining in the home while the parents take turns living there. If the child is unsafe with one parent, that parent may only have supervised visitation or no visitation.