When couples with children initiate the process of dissolving their marriage, one of the largest issues that must be resolved is child custody. When the divorcing parents and their advocates cannot come to a settlement on their own, the court may determine the details regarding custody of the children, either awarding one parent with sole custody or both parents with joint custody.
The court's decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and there is no standard set of factors that the court must consider when deciding child custody issues. However, one of the factors that courts commonly do take into consideration is the family home. The parent who emerges from the asset-division process of a divorce in possession of the property may be in good standing before the court, which is charged with looking after a child's best interests.
Another factor is what the child wants. If a child is mature enough to separate truth from fiction, a judge may conduct an interview with the child to identify the parent with which the child wants to live. Children younger than 7 years old are rarely asked their opinion.
Some other factors that the court considers include the physical and psychological health of each parent, the reputation and character of each parent, the amount that each parent earns in gross income and which parent is the primary caregiver. Furthermore, the ability of each parent to maintain relationships and the child's gender, age and health may also be considered.
Parents may obviate the need for the court's intervention by settling the issues that accompany a divorce by themselves, with the help of their respective family law attorneys. However, even when parents arrive at such a settlement, it is still subject to ratification by a judge.
Source: Divorce Support, "Maryland Child Custody Factors", September 16, 2014