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Parents can help themselves when it comes to custody issues

It's the question that many Maryland parents ask when going through a divorce: "How do I get joint custody?" Parents want what is best for their children but so many factors go into a child custody determination that the decision is never a sure thing. Courts consider numerous elements during a custody analysis but first and foremost, courts look to the best interests of the child.

States interpret the "best interests of the child" standard differently but there are common themes and trends that run throughout the majority of the states and Maryland parents can use this information to make a case for joint custody.

The analysis may look at a parent's relationship with the child and spouse and review the length of that relationship. Courts may consider who was the primary caregiver during the parent's marriage because the primary caregiver may be more capable of continuing to provide for the child after the divorce. If the child has lived in a stable and safe environment for an extended period of time, courts may not want to disrupt that stability. Also under consideration are the parent's moral fitness, the quality of the home, school and the community record of the child.

In addition to who took care of the kids during the marriage, courts also look favorably on parents who are noticeably active in the lives of their children. And although it may seem awkward, it is helpful to maintain accurate documentation of this time together.

All of these factors are influential but no single one is necessarily the most crucial. Throughout the divorce, courts look to a parent's behavior in its entirety. Judges notice behavior in the courtroom and demeanor during the proceedings. Even if the divorce elicits negative or aggressive behavior, it is crucial that parents do not let these emotions impact the custody proceedings.

Source: The Huffington Post, "How To Divorce: How Do I Get Joint Custody?" Joseph Cordell, May 14, 2012

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