Joint Custody

Taylor vs. Taylor was a Maryland Case which was heard by the Maryland Court Appeals in 1986. This was a long time ago for many people. The Taylor Court went into an analysis whether the trial judge has the authority to grant joint custody. However, this is the bedrock case when it comes to whether the court may grant shared custody arrangement between the parties. There is an analysis done by the court to that effect. In this brief article, we will examine some of the determinations that the court made to determine if joint custody or now referred as shared custody is adequate when parents live in separate homes.

The Court went into the meaning of “custody” as concepts of “legal” and “physical custody. Legal custody carries with it the right and obligations to make decisions regarding education, religion, medical need, and other matters of major significance regarding the child’s welfare and life. Joint legal custody means that both mother and father have an equivalent voice in making those decisions for the child, and neither party’s rights are superior to the other party.

Physical custody means the right and obligation to have the child for the majority of the time when it comes to overnight access and to be able to make the day-to-day decisions while the child is with that parent. Shared physical custody may be on a 50/50 basis or less in some events, and in fact more commonly will involve custody by one parent during the school year and by the other parent during summer vacations when school is out of session, or which parent will receive access on those days on the weekdays and weekends, or between hours of the day days and nights.

As to physical custody, there is no difference between the rights and obligations of a parent having temporary custody of a child under an order of shared physical custody, and the other parent having temporary custody of a child under an order of shared physical custody, and other parent having temporary custody under an award of access. In order to grant legal custody to one party and to delegating physical custody between the parties may be accomplished either by granting sole custody to one party and specified rights of access to the other party, or by granting legal custody to one parties and specified periods of access for physical custody to each parent. In either situation, the effect will not be any different.

The Court recognized that statute of legislative intent to limit the inherent and broad power of an equity court to handle cases dealing with child custody matters. A court is faced with an issue of child custody when the parties separated where the parents can continue the shared custody that occurred before time, or award custody to one of the parents, or to a third parties, which give rise to what is in child’s best interest. The power the court in regards to child custody cases, this part is the power that the court had at common law, and not limit the court’s power as we know it. As history shows, the court’s power is broad such that the power of the court can result in the purpose of having the child’s best interest in making its determination which parent will have custody of the child.

Below are the factors that a trial court should decide whether to award the parents a shared custody arrangement:

  • Relationship Established Between the Child and Each Parent
  • Fitness of the Parents
  • Potential Disruption of Child’s Social and School Life
  • Preference of the Child
  • Demands of Parental Employment
  • Geographic Proximity of Parental Homes
  • Sincerity of Parents’ Request
  • Age and Number of Children
  • Impact on State or Federal Assistance
  • Financial Status of the Parents
  • Benefit to Parents
  • Other Factors

This Court held that the power to grant joint custody is an important part of the broad and inherent power of a court exercising its equitable powers to determine child custody. In addition, a second statue when this case was determined regarding to the custody of the Fchildren, was Maryland Code (1957, 1983 Repl. Vol.) Art. 72A, § 1. It provided that the parents are the joint natural guardians of the child below 18 years old and are severally and jointly charged with the child’s care, support, education, and welfare. The parents will have equal duties and powers, and neither parent has any right above the right of the other parent concerning the child’s custody. If either the father or mother abandons his or her family or dies, or is not able to be the parental custodian of the child, the court can award the custodial rights to the other parent if a fit and proper parent to do so. Where the parents live apart, the court may award custodial rights of the child to the fit and proper parent, but, in any custody proceeding, neither parent will be provided with any preference due to their sex.

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