Answer: The most important thing to any parent is the welfare of their children. Unfortunately, when you are divorced the court cannot play Solomon, so there must be a decision as to where the children live and with whom. In resolving these issues, the court considers to the best interest of the children, and uses that to decide custody and visitation.
Fortunately, most parents have an idea of what is in the best interest of their children, and can usually reach an agreement about who will have legal and physical custody. Traditionally, one parent had sole legal and primary physical custody and the other parent had weekend visitation. Today the court can award joint legal and shared physical custody, and many parents are able to reach an agreement which allows them to share physical and/or legal custody. An attorney can help you review these options, suggest schedules, and negotiate an agreement which will work for you and is in the best interest of your children. Once this has been done, an agreement can be drafted which will be approved by the court.
If an agreement cannot be reached, an experienced divorce attorney knows the factors that are considered by a judge is deciding what is in the best interest of your children. At the Gardner Law Firm, P.C., we know what evidence a court will receive at trial, which evidence is most persuasive, how a client should handle themselves during the pretrial process, how a client should testify at trial, the questions he or she is likely to be asked, and how to prepare a case for trial. Your attorney is like the director of a play, and you will be the leading actor, so it is vital that you both understand your roles. You only have one opportunity to present evidence at trial, so it is critical that you retain an experienced attorney who can help you prepare for your day in court. Having handled hundreds of contested custody cases, the attorneys at the Gardner Law Firm, P.C. can assist you in this process.
To assist the court in deciding how to resolve a contested custody case, the Circuit Courts of Maryland frequently use custody evaluators to investigate the issues and present a comprehensive report to the court. These evaluators are employed by the court and are neutral parties who have great influence on the outcome of your case. Mr. Gardner is familiar with the individuals who perform this role for the Circuit Court and with the issues and factors considered.
In addition, when parents are involved in a bitter custody dispute, and particularly where children are in therapy as a result, the court often appoints a Best Interest Attorney (BIA) to represent the best interest of the children in the dispute. The fees for the BIA are divided between the parents and the BIA is authorized to access all of the children's medical, school and psychological records.
At trial, the BIA is required to inform the court of the child's preferences, but is not required to follow them. Instead, the BIA advocates what he perceives to be in the children's best interest, which may or may not be consistent with their preferences. Mr. Gardner has been appointed as a BIA in numerous contested custody cases, and has been able to successfully assist parents in resolving these disputes in a manner which takes the children's needs and interests into account. These are usually the most difficult cases on the court's calendar, and only experienced attorneys who are well known to the judges and masters of family law receive these appointments.
Finally, the Circuit Courts of Maryland are required to enter a child support order when a custody order is issued. The amount of child support is determined by guidelines which have been adopted by the Maryland Legislature, and must be introduced at the time your case is heard at trial. The guidelines are based primarily on the parties respective incomes. However, there are other factors, such as the cost of child care, any extraordinary medical needs of the child, the cost of health insurance, and whether the parties share physical custody. At the Gardner Law Firm, P.C., we are familiar with the issues involved in arriving at an appropriate child support amount, and can assist you in preparing a child support agreement, or in litigating any issues that may arise.
The best way to know what is likely to occur in your case, and to ensure that the best interest of your children is protected, is to contact an experienced divorce attorney early in the process. Mr. Gardner has over 35 years of trial experience, and is here to help you reach the most successful outcome for both you and your children. He is committed to his clients and will do his very best to protect the welfare of your children.