When Maryland family law judges make child custody decisions, they consider the best interests of the child. Shared custody arrangements are preferred because studies have shown that children lead happier and more fulfilling lives when they spend time with both of their parents, but judges may deny custody and restrict visitation when parents have behaved in ways that could place children in danger.
When parents seeking child custody or visitation rights have been in trouble with the law, judges may deny their requests if they abused alcohol or drugs or committed violent crimes like murder or assault. Being placed in a violent or potentially violent environment is not in a child’s best interests, and neither is being cared for by an individual who has a history of reckless behavior. Judges are most likely to deny custody or visitation when parents have abused children or committed offenses of a sexual nature.
Judges consider mitigating factors before they deny parents who have committed crimes custody or visitation. Parents who have been in trouble with the law only once are more likely to be able to spend time with their children than parents who are repeat offenders, and recent crimes are considered more serious than offenses that were committed years or decades ago. When a parent has been charged with a crime but not convicted, a temporary custody order that remains in place until the case is resolved may be issued.
The best interests of the child
Child custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child doctrine. Parents who have committed minor offenses may be able to spend time with their children, but parents who have been convicted of violent or sexual crimes may be denied custody or visitation rights. When parents have a history or drug or alcohol abuse, judges allow visitation in supervised settings.