Emergency Child Custody in Maryland

There is nothing more terrifying to a parent than believing your child is in danger. When the cause of the danger is your co-parent, however, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your child’s protection and may require an emergency child custody hearing to resolve the situation.

If you believe that your child is facing an immediate health or safety risk, you can request an emergency custody hearing by filing an emergency petition for child custody. The hearing will take place quickly – sometimes within a few days of the request; sometimes within hours following the request – which allows the court to make a quick decision regarding the child’s safety.

Reasons to request an emergency custody hearing

There are several different reasons for filing a petition for an emergency child custody order, including (but not limited to):

  • Abuse or neglect by the other parent or a member of the other parent’s household
  • Threats of abuse or violence by the other parent or a member of the other parent’s household
  • Alcohol or drug use and/or abuse by the other parent or a member of the other parent’s household
  • To avert a parental kidnapping
  • A conviction of child sexual abuse charges by the other parent or a member of the other parent’s household
  • Abandonment of the child
  • Changes in the safety of the other parent’s accommodations (utilities being turned off, risk of eviction, etc.)

Evidence to support your emergency petition

If the court consents, you and the other parent will be required to attend a hearing. The party filing the petition must have evidence to support the allegations, including:

  • Police report or an arrest record for the other parent
  • Records from Child Protection Services
  • Medical records for the child
  • Court records from previous protection order hearings
  • Evidence of the other parent’s alcohol or drug abuse
  • Evidence of domestic violence against the child, such as photos or videos
  • Records of previous convictions for the other parent

Understand that Maryland’s laws protect parental rights, so unless the child is in immediate danger of harm, or of being removed from the state permanently, it can be a challenge to obtain emergency custody. This is why having evidence is a critical part of the process.

How long does an emergency child custody order last in Maryland?

An emergency child custody order is a temporary change, which allows the court to quickly modify the custody order to protect the child’s safety. Before you can file an emergency custody order, you must have an open custody case. Once the final custody order is made in the case, the emergency custody order will expire.

If you are considering an emergency child custody order, you are facing a difficult situation for your child and yourself. Having an experienced Annapolis child custody lawyer from Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC on your side can help you move through the process quickly and smoothly, ensuring the safety of your child. To learn more about our services, or to reserve a consultation at our Annapolis office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Second Parent, Stepparent and Adult Adoption – The Many Ways to Make a Family

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Although our laws have, historically, been based on a married man and a woman playing the role of the father and mother of a child, our culture is changing, and our ideas of what makes a family are evolving. Sometimes, the laws catch up quickly; sometimes, they do not.

The good news is that Maryland offers a number of ways to grow and protect your family. We wanted to explore some of the different adoption options for parents, so you can make the best possible choices for your future.

Second parent adoption

Second-parent adoption allows a non-biological parent to have legal rights to a child. Even though marriage equality is the law of the land, and has been for years, LGBTQ couples still face potential problems – especially in other states which may try to circumvent the laws, or which do not accept de facto parenting. A second-parent adoption can protect everyone.

For example, if a same-sex couple has a child together, and the biological parent dies unexpectedly or the couple divorces, the non-biological parent may be denied his or her parental rights. The same is true if a person adopts a child and then gets married, and the spouse does not also adopt the child. Seeking a second parent adoption gives the non-biological parent the same rights and responsibilities regarding custody and visitation.

Stepparent adoption

A stepparent adoption is a way to formalize the parent-child relationship in a family where one parent has remarried. It offers many benefits for both the second spouse and the child; not only will you have equal legal rights when it comes to raising the child, but it may make inheritance easier for the child because it eliminates a potential contest during probate. It also allows your child to benefit from your insurance policies and Social Security. Another added benefit is that your entire family will share the same last name.

If the child’s other biological parent is still alive, you must have his or her consent to move forward with this type of adoption. This requires the other parent to give up his or her parental rights. Finally, if the child is older than 10, you may also need his or her permission to adopt.

Adult adoption

Adult adoption may not be as well-known, but it is legal in Maryland. It offers all of the same benefits that any adoption would – inheritance, name changes, solidifying family bonds – but it also allows the adult child to make important medical decisions on behalf of the parent, when necessary. Many times, adult adoption occurs in families where a foster child aged out of the system before he or she could be adopted, and in families where a stepparent could not legally adopt the child.

By adopting an adult child, you are taking on this responsibility for his or her care. This means you can set up trusts and powers of attorney, and create a path forward for your loved one. It also grants you the right to appoint a guardian for the adult child in the event of your death.

No matter what kind of adoption is best for you, you are going to need an adoption attorney to help guide you through the process. At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, our family law attorneys advocate for you and your family in all aspects of family law. To schedule an initial consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Parenting Plans and the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us. For many, this means more time spent with family and friends. When you are divorced, however, and you co-parent your children, the holidays can add more stress than seems fair.

When you create a Parenting Plan, your holiday schedule is planned in that document. Perhaps your child will alternate holidays, or maybe you and your spouse agree to spend a specific day, like Thanksgiving, with your child together. If both parents agree, there is a lot of flexibility available for holidays, and under normal circumstances, whatever you decide will be approved by the judge (providing it is in the best interests of the children).

However, there may be exceptions to the rule that you did not consider, such as last-minute plans to go away, or the death of a family member, or a sudden illness, etc. You may also be dealing with a co-parent who feels he or she has been unfairly treated, or who simply refuses to abide by the Court Order.

Let’s look at some of these exceptions.

Making your case for flexibility

Changes in circumstances can happen quickly – and now you need to make a change for this particular holiday season. As the spouse making the request, it is important to be straightforward and honest. Along with your request to your ex-spouse, you should offer to make compromises elsewhere in your agreed-to schedule, such as allowing your children to stay with your ex for an extra day, or for more time during their next visit. Perhaps you can offer up “your” holiday in exchange for the extra time you want to spend for this holiday.

These types of exchanges should be written down, so that both you and your ex-spouse have a record of it. Even if you and your ex have always made allowances before, send an email to your ex with the proposed changes, and ask him or her to reply “I agree,” or “Okay,” or in some other way to show that both of you are onboard.

If you need a change in your schedule that is permanent, however, you should speak with your lawyer about your options for modifying the Order. Again, if you and your ex are in agreement about this permanent change, it should be a relatively smooth process.

Options when your ex-spouse refuses to follow the Parenting Plan

If your ex refuses to abide by the Court Order during the holidays, and all attempts to work it out on your own have failed, then you have a more complicated issue on your hands. There are a few things you can do to protect your rights to parent your children:

  • Have your lawyer send a letter to your ex. A letter from your attorney that informs the other parent he or she must obey the court-ordered custody arrangement or face legal penalties may be enough to change his or her behavior.
  • Ask for mediation services. If your ex is having a hard time sticking to the Parenting Plan, mediation may help you resolve those issues. The chances are good that you may still require a permanent modification to the Order, but you and your ex could reach a more amicable (and amenable) solution if you avoid jumping right into litigation.
  • Request changes to the custody arrangement. If your ex repeatedly violates the child custody order, it may be time to request modifications to the Parenting Plan. This does not have to be contentious, but it could be – and you should be prepared for that. Your lawyer can help you craft a strategy to move forward.
  • File a motion for contempt. Taking this action will force the other parent to appear in court and explain why he or she violated the child custody order. Penalties for determined violations can include sanctions or fines, or even a brief time behind bars in the case of delinquent child support.
  • Call the police. If you fear for the safety of your children, call the police. If your co-parent has kidnapped your children, call the police. This is not a catch-all answer to address any issues you have, of course, but in some cases it may prove necessary.

If you face child custody conflicts with your ex-spouse this holiday season, the Annapolis family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are here to help you. We focus on representing you, and fighting for the best possible outcome in your case that leaves you and your loved ones with a fair and equitable arrangement. To request a consultation and our law office, call us today at 410.921.2422 or complete our contact form.

Can DNA Paternity Testing Be Done Without the Father’s Approval?

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Paternity testing is an issue that is naturally fraught with a lot of emotion. Proof of paternity answers an important question, which will have legal ramifications and a significant impact on the child’s life. However, getting the suspected father to submit to a DNA test can be difficult in some cases, and you might wonder if you actually need his permission at all.

The requirement of knowledge and consent in DNA testing

If you require legal DNA test results that will hold up in court, the person whose DNA is being tested must know about the test and give his consent for his genetic material to be tested. DNA testing facilities require signed consent forms from the person whose sample is being tested before they will conduct the test.

If the father is present, available and willing, he participates in the test and has the sample analyzed in a DNA testing lab. The lab would also require a sample from the child and the child’s mother. Once the results are in, if the DNA test proves paternity, the court will declare that the father is the legal father, his name will be added to the birth certificate, and the issues of child support and custody and visitation can be decided. DNA test results are about 99.9999% accurate when done correctly and using a sample that comes directly from the father.

If the suspected father does not agree to take the test of his own volition, the court can issue an “order of parentage” and compel the potential father to submit to DNA testing. If he refuses to take a court-ordered paternity test, he will face legal consequences such as being held in contempt of court, and he will be subject to fines and possible criminal charges.

Testing for paternity when the father is unable to be tested

If the father is no longer living or unreachable somehow, the child’s paternal grandparents’ DNA can be tested. The DNA samples from the DNA of full siblings of the alleged father, the child and the mother can also be used to determine if there is a match. Another option is to test the DNA of a known child of the possible father.

It is always best to get the father’s consent, and be honest when it comes to the issue of establishing paternity. A skilled Annapolis child custody attorney from Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help you work through the challenges of establishing paternity and deciding child custody and visitation issues.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we are here for you during the entire child custody process. You may reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form.

Division of Property or “Child” Custody – Who Keeps the Dog in a Divorce?

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Our pets light up our lives with faithful companionship and unconditional love. We consider them members of the family. Some of us think of our furry friends like children. If your pet is important to you and your family, and you are thinking about divorce, you should keep the future of your pet in mind when it comes to division of property.

Some states have specific laws in place when it comes to custody of pets, but as of this writing, Maryland does not. As cold as it may sound, pets would fall under Maryland’s Family Law §8–201, which defines “family personal property.” Unless some kind of agreement or trust exists which provides guidelines on who might get custody of the family pet in the event of a divorce, the court can resolve the issue just like any other property disagreement – by deciding who keeps the pet, and who does not.

Protecting your pet in a divorce

Some couples who divorce on amicable terms, or who have children, will devise their own “custody” agreements for their pets: for example, the family dog might follow the children around, or perhaps one person will take the pets in summer or on weekends. An informal arrangement such as this can work for some people.

However, if you are worried about the fate of your pets – out or love and attachment, or out of fear that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will neglect or mistreat the animals – you should work with your attorney to ensure that your pet remains with you as part of the terms of the divorce settlement.

If you cannot come to an agreement, then the court will decide how to divide the property – in this case, your pet. A judge may look at the following factors when deciding the future of your family pet:

  • Original ownership. Which spouse acquired the pet? If you have adoption or ownership papers, provide them to the court.
  • Primary caregiver. Who took the cat to the vet? Who walked the dog every morning? Trained the dog and spent quality time with it every day?
  • Future care. Who can provide the best care moving forward? Will one party be moving to an apartment or condo where outside space is limited? Does one party have work hours that make it difficult to spend time with the animal?
  • Financial ability. What is each person’s financial ability to realistically take care of a pet after the divorce? Vet bills, pet food, medication: these items add up.
  • Purpose for the original purchase or adoption. Is the animal a show animal, or considered a support or therapy animal to a specific party? Certainly, a judge will not award a service animal, such as a seeing-eye dog, to the spouse who does not need it; but, he or she may consider other matters when it comes to the animal.

To be candid, some judges may not want to get involved in issues regarding pets. There have even been cases where the judge has ordered the pet be sold and the parties split the proceeds, although this is obviously an extreme case. There have also been cases where the judge has ordered the parties to split custody of the pet. If neither of these solutions sound appealing, you and your ex-spouse should attempt to remedy this disagreement on your own if at all possible, with the assistance of your attorneys.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we advocate for you during your divorce. We understand that being prepared is part of a strong strategy. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

5 Tips to Reach a Child Custody Agreement Together

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You love your child more than anything; all that you want is to make sure that he or she is cared for, and has his or her best interests taken care of by both you and your spouse. However, the two of you do not agree on how the custody arrangements should go, and it is causing a lot of stress. Perhaps you tried mediation, but found it did not work. Perhaps your spouse has already found an attorney, and you have heard that he or she is a real bull dog.

Or perhaps – if you are like many of the clients we have met and helped through the years – you and your spouse simply don’t want to be married anymore, and neither one of you has the appetite for a long, drawn-out battle.

We would never recommend trying to handle your own divorce; there are too many moving parts, and too many potential complications. But if you and your spouse are able to be amicable, there is no reason why you cannot come together to work on your parenting plan. These are five things you can do to help the process go more smoothly.

Always keep an open mind.

The goal is to create a plan together, that not only leaves both parents feeling satisfied and in control of their lives, but also ensures you can both parent your children. You may believe that you know what is best for your child, but your co-parent also has his or her own thoughts and perspectives about what is right for your children. When you keep an open mind, and are willing to listen and compromise, the process will run more smoothly.

Gather the documentation you can

Documentation – medical histories, sign-up sheets, special tutoring or programs, expenses and bills, etc. – helps reinforce and clarify what the most supportive access schedule and routine would be for your children and their needs. You may be surprised at how much time your child spends doing after-school activities. If your job prevents you from being home during the same hours as your child, perhaps your spouse is better suited to primary residential custody. Or, if your spouse plans on moving to another town, he or she may be more receptive to your child living primarily with you, because of how much driving and transport is involved.

This type of paperwork can help you and your spouse when it comes to addressing payment of expenses for your children as well. The courts do have specific mandatory guidelines for the amount of child support one parent pays to the other; however, you and your spouse can work out an agreement to split any additional costs of raising your child, such as extracurricular activity and uninsured medical expenses, in a way that is conducive to your particular financial circumstances.

Come prepared with several options regarding co-parenting

In Maryland, there are two types of custody, legal and physical. Physical custody pertains to where the children physically reside. Parents can have joint physical custody, which means the children reside with both of parents, or one parent can have sole physical custody, which means that the children primarily reside with one parent instead of the other. Legal custody entails decision making authority for major issues regarding the children, such as medical, religious or educational decisions. Parents can have joint legal custody, which provides them both equal decision-making authority with regards to major decisions regarding their children, or one parent can have sole legal custody, which gives them sole decision-making authority.

The process can be, in a word, confusing.

The parenting plan agreement outlines with whom the children actually live at any given time; specific information about the child’s health and educational needs; a summer vacation and holiday schedule; and any other stipulations required. Usually it contemplates both parents having input on major decisions involving the children and keeps both active in the children’s medical, educational and other activities.

Parenting plans are generally best when specific – but because life is not totally predictable, being too specific can leave both parents feeling frustrated. Consider also adding in special circumstances into the agreement – birthdays, vacations, family reunions, etc.

Even if you feel overwhelmed, attempt to find ways to remain calm and communicative

Even the most rational parents can be overwhelmed by the custody process. If you feel like your emotions are getting out of control, remember to take some deep breaths. You can always ask for a break so that you can leave the room and clear your head. The more calm, civil and composed you can remain during the custody discussion, the more effective you will be in reaching a fair resolution. Sometimes it might take more than one meeting to process the information and the important decisions you are considering for your children’s best interests.

Remember that it is all about your child’s needs

This is the most important thing of all. The best interest of the child is what is most important – not only to you, but to the courts. If you find yourself being a bit vengeful, or feel you are being treated unfairly by your co-parent, stop the conversation. You can pick it up another day.

Finally, keep in mind that if you cannot come to an agreement together, neither of you has “failed” as a parent. Sometimes, we need a third-party to point things out. Sometimes, you need an attorney who will fight to protect your child, and who can prove that your best interests are aligned with your child’s.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we are your advocates. Our attorneys treat you and your goals with respect and dignity, and know how to build a case designed to protect those goals. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Child Custody Decisions in Maryland Military Divorce

Child Custody in Maryland

Deciding child custody can be challenging enough, but when one of the parents is on active duty in the military it can add another layer of difficulty to this emotional dispute. Parents should not have to choose between their duty to serve their country and their desire to participate in the upbringing of their child, but the way some custody laws and rulings are structured, that may become the case. In custody cases that involve an active duty military parent, the court is often placed in the awkward position of trying to strike a balance between the best interest of the child, the interests of the military parent and that of the civilian parent.

Special legal protections for military parents

The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law designed to protect the rights of military members in court proceedings. Under this law, the service member can request a 90-day delay for court proceedings in order to give them time to respond. However, there are occasions when the court can rule regardless of the SCRA when the child’s needs are at stake.

Given that child custody cases follow state law, each state has its own statutes and approaches to dealing with decisions of child custody as they relate to the needs of the deploying parent. To solve the issue of the vast variability when it comes to how deploying parents are treated during custody considerations, the Uniform Law Commission developed the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act of 2012 (UDPCVA). If adopted across the country, the UDPCVA would ensure that in custody cases involving deploying members of the military, a judge may not consider the past or future deployments of the parent as the only criteria in deciding what is in the best interest of the child.

The UDPCVA would:

  • Include a notice that requires parents to communicate about custody and visitation as soon as possible after the service member learns that they are being deployed. It would also work with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to preserve the residence of the deploying parent when custody issues involve two or more states.
  • Encourage private, mutual agreements between parents when the military parent is facing deployment.
  • Allow the deploying parent to grant their custodial responsibility to another adult who is either a family member, or someone with whom the child has a close relationship.
  • Provide for expedited procedures for entering a temporary custody order during deployment.

Under the Act, when military parents receive orders for deployment, they would be required to give seven days’ notice to the other parent and put together a parenting plan. If the civilian parent wishes to relocate while the deployed parent is away, he or she must give their new address to the deployed parent and to the court.

Enacting the UDPCVA

Though the Act has been recommended in all 50 states, it is not the law in all of them – and it has not yet been enacted in Maryland. Attorney Cynthia Clark of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC worked with a state representative to introduce a bill that would adopt many of the key provisions of the UDPCVA, but that bill was not voted out of committee. As of today, members of the military in Maryland have no special rights or protections when it comes to custody actions outside of what they have under the SCRA.

Attorney Clark will continue to fight on behalf of military parents here in Maryland, and will continue to work with the State legislature to help create bills that protect the rights of our servicemen and servicewomen.

If you or someone you know is a member of the military and facing a child custody dispute in an upcoming divorce, please contact the experienced Annapolis-based family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC to schedule a consultation, or call us at 410.921.2422. We proudly represent military families throughout Maryland.

Establishing Paternity in Maryland for a Child Born Out of Wedlock

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A child born to a non-married couple is entitled to support from both parents. Establishing paternity in Maryland for a child born out of wedlock is an important step to ensure that your child spends time with both of his or her parents, and that both parents contribute financially to the child’s upbringing.

Benefits of establishing paternity

Maryland is one of 11 states that have adopted the Uniform Parentage Act, which modernizes the law for determining the parents of children. An important feature of this law is that it shuns the term “illegitimate” and instead uses the phrase, “child with no presumed father.” The UPA and a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have invalidated laws that put children born out-of-wedlock at a disadvantage.

The People’s Law Library of Maryland lists the following benefits of establishing paternity:

  • Establishes a relationship between the father and child, and gives the child a sense of identity.
  • Allows the father’s name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate.
  • Avoids the need to go to court.
  • Gives the father custody rights, visitation and to be consulted about adoption.
  • Gives the child the right to benefits from the father such as financial support, inheritance, social security, veteran’s benefits, and life and health insurance.
  • Makes it easier for the child to learn the father’s medical history, and benefit from the father’s health insurance.

Establishing paternity in Maryland

You can establish paternity in two different ways under Maryland law. The first option is through an Affidavit of Parentage form and the second option is through a court order. MD Code Family Law §5–1028. A father may complete an Affidavit of Parentage while the mother and baby are still in the hospital, allowing the dad’s name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. If you complete the form after leaving the hospital, both parents must sign the form in the presence of a Notary Public. Forms are available through the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records and you can establish paternity using this process up until the child’s 18th birthday.

You may consult with a family law attorney before signing this form, and if you are not certain that you are the biological father of the child, do not sign the form.

Refusing to complete an Affidavit of Parentage does not also absolve a father from fulfilling his obligation to help provide financial support for his child as paternity can be established by the court through genetic testing. If the father refuses to submit to a genetic test, the court can order him to take the test. Both parents will be required to take the test, which only requires a swab of the inside of the cheek to gather a sample of saliva that will be used for DNA analysis.

The state of Maryland makes it abundantly simple for a father to step up and assert his paternity and enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with fatherhood. The child will benefit from the sense of knowing who they are and establishing a bond with both parents.

A Maryland family law attorney from the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, can be helpful if you are interested in establishing paternity and working out custody arrangements so that you can spend time with your child.

If you require the services of a Maryland family law attorney with your paternity case, we are here to help. When you work with the family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, P.A., you enjoy the benefits of their more than 30 years of combined legal experience working on your behalf. Please take a moment now to contact us at 410.921.2422 to reserve a consultation today at our Annapolis-based office to discuss your case.

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Do Not Make These Mistakes in a Custody Dispute

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When a couple who has children decides to end their marriage, they must come to an agreement regarding custody of their children; namely, who will be the primary residential parent (with whom the children will live during the majority of the time) and an access schedule for the non-custodial parent. In cases where both parents want the children to live with them, a contentious custody battle may ensue, and the children are the most deeply affected.

In our more than 30 years of combined legal experience, we have seen many different child custody matters. Here are a few examples of what not to do when you are involved in a contested child custody matter:

  • Threaten the other parent. Once you become embroiled in a custody dispute, everything you say and do can be used as evidence against you. What if you were to lose your cool and say threatening things in the heat of an argument, and you later discovered that the other parent was recording the conversation? While this recording is likely not admissible in court because it was obtained illegally, such a recording taken out of context can cast you in an unfavorable light. When a judge has to make a decision between the two of you, your behavior as well as that of your spouse will be under a microscope.
  • Violate the existing custody orders. The existing custody order is enforceable by the Court. If you purposefully violate those orders, this will not only reflect badly on you, but it could land you in contempt of court and ruin your chances of getting custody.
  • Criticize the other parent in front of the children. Yes, you are angry, you are bitter and you are feeling frustrated at the whole process. You might feel as if the other parent is playing games and getting away with it. No matter what they say or do, for the duration of the custody proceedings and even beyond, do not criticize your child’s other parent in front of them. When you do, you put the child in the position of feeling as if they must take sides and no child needs to deal with that.
  • Coach the children to take your side. Never coach your children, tell them what to say or encourage them to lie or take your side. There will be times when your child will be interviewed by child psychologists or other child development experts and by the court. They will quickly be able to tell when a child has been coached and when they are speaking from their heart. If you get caught having coached your child to say something unfavorable about the other parent, whether you believe it to be true or not, this will backfire on you every time.
  • Post disparaging content about the other parent, their attorney or the judge on social media. The best policy is not to post anything on social media while you are in the midst of a custody matter. Do not post cryptic updates with veiled references as to how you feel about your spouse, their attorney, the judge, or your frustration with the whole process. Whatever you post may be used against you.
  • Go on a shopping spree. Now is not the time for retail therapy. A significant amount of conspicuous consumption, especially if you are saying that you cannot afford child support payments, or your children’s expenses, will look suspicious.
  • Take the children away or out of the state without notifying the other parent. Every so often, parents will act irresponsibly and take the child away on vacation without informing the other parent. This causes the other parent to panic when they do not know where the children are. Be respectful of the other parent’s rights and their feelings even during this challenging time.
  • Move in with your new paramour or invite your new paramour to move in with you. This is a stressful time and it would feel great to have someone who is on your side to come home to. Having your new romantic partner staying overnight or living with you while you are going through a divorce and custody matter will be confusing for the children, and does not demonstrate good judgment on your part in the eyes of the court.
  • Allow yourself to be railroaded into a decision that you do not agree with. There are some people who simply shut down in the face of conflict and just say yes and agree to everything because they hope that this will make things move along faster. The agreements that you make now will govern your relationship with the other parent, and your children, for many years to come, so your voice needs to be heard. Work with your family law attorney and take an active role in the proceedings. Stand up for what you want, and be willing to compromise when necessary.
  • Try to represent yourself. Litigating a custody dispute is complicated. It involves high-level negotiation skills and knowledge of Maryland law. Even divorce attorneys hire lawyers to represent them in family law matters. Work with an experienced family law attorney who will listen to you, understand your needs and fight valiantly for you and your family.

Fighting over custody is destructive, non-productive and expensive. When you work with an experienced team of Maryland family lawyers we will work towards whatever is in the best interest of the child, and we will advise you so that you can avoid these kinds of mishaps.

Child custody does not always have to be a pitched battle. When you work with the family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, you enjoy the benefits of their more than 30 years of combined legal experience working on your behalf. Please take a moment now to contact us to reserve a consultation today at our Annapolis-based office to discuss your case.

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Maryland Parenting Plans: the Challenges and Opportunities of Co-Parenting

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When a couple who has children divorces, their actions will have a deep and lasting impact on the child. So often, couples get so caught up in the conflict, and the gut-wrenching pain of ending a marriage and dividing households, that they can lose sight of the impact that the divorce is having on their child. The Maryland Parenting Plan is the document that will govern their lives as co-parents, and it will make sure that the interests of the child are paramount amongst all of the peripheral strife that is occurring as the marriage dissolves. Children benefit from structure, order and routines. Taking the time to work with an experienced Maryland child custody attorney will help to make sure that the child’s needs are carefully considered, that the plan is flexible enough to be practical, but is structured enough to honor all parties involved.

Developing a parenting plan

While it might seem tedious and time consuming, a well-considered, carefully developed parenting plan that delineates structure and routines can help smooth out the potentially difficult transition that children whose parents are divorcing must go through. When there is a structured plan in place it makes everyone’s life easier, but the child will most likely reap the greatest benefit.

A parenting plan is completely customized to consider the needs of the child in question and they include such topics as:

  • Vacation and holiday schedules
  • Parents’ work schedules
  • Educational, sports and other extracurricular activities for the child
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Travel plans
  • Emergency plans
  • Religious education
  • Health care/ doctor visits

In some situations, parenting plans will include whatever special circumstances apply to a child, for example a child with special needs, physical handicaps, or mental health challenges. The plan should include specific schedules with regard to pick-up and drop off days and times, holiday arrangements, and how the parents will communicate with one another and how the non-custodial parent will communicate with the child.

How much detail should a parenting plan include?

In her groundbreaking book about families and divorce, The Good Divorce, author Connie Ahrons created a typology of post-divorce spousal relationships. The descriptions of these relationship types can be helpful when trying to figure out exactly how much detail might be required for a parenting plan agreement. As a general rule, the more conflict between parties the higher the level of detail will be required in the parenting plan. The five categories of post-divorce relationships between co-parents include:

  1. Perfect Pals. These two have maintained a friendly rapport, they remain connected and might even share holiday or birthday celebrations. Perfect pal relationships would allow a greater amount of flexibility in parenting plan agreements.
  2. Cooperative Colleagues. Although they do not consider each other to be friends, they can still interact and communicate easily. They do not spend family celebrations together, but they have no problem coming to a mutual agreement about holiday and vacation schedules.
  3. Angry Associates. These co-parents interact only when required to and they do not have much communication between them. These co-parents tend to be tense, hostile and even engage in conflict. They often require strict schedules with pick up and drop off in a neutral location.
  4. Fiery Foes. There is a high level of conflict between the co-parents, extended litigation, and an inability to resolve any conflict between them. These co-parents would also require a significant amount of structure in a parenting plan that would likely have to be developed by the court through their legal counsel.
  5. Dissolved Duos. The former spouses have no communication, and the non-custodial spouse may have moved out of the area leaving the custodial parent to raise the child as a single parent.

While developing a parenting plan might be a challenging process, both parents have the opportunity to make sure that their child’s needs are carefully considered and that they do as much as possible to provide structure and stability for the child after the divorce is final.

When you work with one of the experienced Annapolis-based child custody attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, you can feel confident that we will protect your rights and guide you through the divorce process with care. You may contact us today to schedule a consultation at our office.