What are the Steps in a Child Custody Case in Maryland?

Child custody is one of the most complicated aspects of any divorce and the process is often harder on the children than it is on the parents. When a divorce is contested, child custody is frequently more difficult to resolve as the parties find it hard to  agree on how their parenting time is going to be divided.  If a divorce is uncontested and the parties are able to agree on the other issues,  they generally have a greater chance of  establishing a child custody plan that works for both parties and the children.

If you live in Rockville, Maryland and are either divorcing or simply looking to establish custody boundaries with the other parent, there are a few steps you are likely to encounter when your child custody case is initiated. Your case may or may not include some of these steps depending on how much you and the other parent agree on custody matters.

  1. Scheduling Conference – A scheduling conference is the first  meeting of the parties in  court. At this time, a Family Law Magistrate  will inquire of  the parties and their attorneys to identify all issues in the case. The Magistrate may also issue “referrals to appropriate resources such as mediation, a pre-trial settlement conference, and a  co-parenting course.” The Magistrate  will  set future hearings and case deadlines as well.  The scheduling conference will be the occasion that the court directs a separate trial process for contested custody proceedings, one that diverges from the trial of the financial issues of the divorce proceedings.
  1. Pre-Trial Settlement Conference – During the pre-trial settlement conference, the judge or magistrate responsible for handling your case usually  attempts to help you reach a settlement, even if you attempted mediation and were unable to resolve all the disputes. If a custody evaluation has been ordered by the court, the pre-trial conference may involve input from the evaluator. In the event you and your spouse still have unsolved issues after attending mediation and the pre-trial settlement conference, the matter will proceed to the trial dates that were provided at the scheduling conference.
  1. Trial – Trial is the evidentiary hearing where the court  determines  the  physical custody schedule or parenting time of each parent with the children, how major decisions (legal custody) regarding the children will be made and frequently the amount of child support paid by one parent to the other. Bear in mind that the court will make decisions on these matters based on what is in the best interests of the children. Each case is unique, so it is best not to expect a standard outcome based on past cases you may have heard or known about.

To be clear, a judge may grant one parent  primary physical custody which means the child lives with them the majority of the time. The other parent would then have access (or visitation) on a set  schedule. The courts may also allow both parents to make decisions regarding the child, which is known as joint legal custody, or they may only grant one parent with this role depending on how well both parents can communicate and work together in the best interests of their children.

If you are in the initial stages of a custody case or wanting to file the necessary documents to obtain custody of your children, it would be in your best interest to contact the Rockville, MD child custody attorneys at Barkley & Kennedy by calling 301-251-6600.  If you want to increase your chances of obtaining an outcome that is in your favor and the best interests of your children, you are going to want to be represented by a reliable and knowledgeable MD child custody attorney.


To get your initial consultation scheduled so that we can discuss your matter in depth, call or visit Barkley & Kennedy at:
51 Monroe Street, #1407
Rockville, MD 20850
301-251-6600