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Understanding the language of law in child custody matters

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2021 | Child Custody

Divorce is rarely easy, whether you’ve been married a few years or a few decades. Rarer still is an easy divorce involving children.

Deciding how to divide both responsibility and time spent with the children often escalates tension in an already stressful situation.

Knowledge eases stress

The Maryland Judiciary understands that many parents going through a divorce are interacting with the legal system for the first time, so they’re unfamiliar with many of its processes and terms. In an attempt to make proceedings regarding child custody and child support a little less stressful, the courts include some educational videos on their website, including one that explains terms “you need to know” in child custody matters.

A friendly woman with a big cup of coffee explains several important terms, including:

  • Child custody

Child custody generally refers to legal arrangements about where and with whom a child lives and how decisions are made. Typically, two major determinations about child custody are made: legal custody and physical custody. “Parents with legal custody make long-term decisions,” the woman says. “That’s why legal custody is also called decision-making authority.”

She notes that parents with legal custody make decisions about education, health, religion, care and welfare and other important areas of the child’s life.

There are two kinds of legal custody: joint custody, in which parents make decisions together, and sole legal custody. In joint custody, one parent is sometimes chosen by the court to make a final decision when they can’t agree on a particular matter.

That parent has what’s called “tie-breaker authority.”

In an upcoming post to our Bethesda Family Law Blog, we’ll dive back into the Maryland Judiciary’s explanations of important legal terms commonly used in child custody matters. Please check back.