In Maryland, there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the ability of a party to make major decisions in his or her child’s life such as decisions relating to medical treatment, education, and/or religion. If a party has sole legal custody, then he or she is able to make decisions for the child without discussing the issue with the other parent. If the parties have joint legal custody, then they have to make reasonable efforts to discuss and come to a joint agreement regarding major issues in the child’s life. An example of a major decision is where the child will go to school, what religion the child will practice, or whether to undergo a surgical procedure.
Physical custody relates to the overnights that the children have with each parent. If the child primarily resides with one parent, then that parent has primary physical custody of the child. In order to have shared physical custody of the minor children, the non-custodial parent needs at least 128 or more overnights with the children. Shared custody can range from 128 overnights to equal overnights (183) a year. The effect of having 128 or more overnights is that child support decreases as the non-custodial parent is spending more time with the child. In making a determination as to who should be awarded custody of a child, the Court considers the best interests of the child.