Motion to Modify Custody – Santo Vs. Santo

The Maryland Court of Appeals made a ruling this case in July 2016. The citation number is 448 Md. 620, 141 A.3d 74 (2016). The parties had two children. At the time of their divorce, the parties had joint custody in 2011. After 2011, the parties started another set of custody battle by filing more court actions. The custody has changed in 2013 by having joint custody with a parenting coordinator involved. The Father wanted sole custody for his sons and he argued that the children will not be in a warzone.

The Father believed that the trial court erred that the Circuit Court to award the parents joint custody because the court knew that they could not communicate effectively. The Mother’s argument was that the court does what is in the best interest of the children considered the factors and options and made its decisions as had stated in the Taylor court.

Taylor vs. Taylor sets out that the standards for Legal Custody and Physical Custody. What parents need to do to set out a joint type of legal and physical custody. As far as joint legal custody, as the Taylor court addressed that each parent has an equivalent voice when making decision for their children which effects the child’s life like religious and education training. The Taylor court defined physical custody as an obligation and right to have a home for the children and make decisions on a daily basis while the child is under the control and care for the child.

Other jurisdictions similar to Maryland have no legal statutes guidelines that no one guideline outweighs the other for a custody award. The controlling and highest concern is in the best interest of the child, where the trial court will consider with its sound discretion into the circumstances of each case and the welfare of the child appears to be mandatory. The Taylor court realized algorithms or equations in child custody matters cannot be used because the subjective nature and unique character for each case.

One of the most demanding and difficult job of a judge is resolving a custody dispute. The totality of circumstances is used in each case to determine custody. As the Taylor court warned, no specific factor outweighs the other. There is no robotic wording to serve what is in the best interest of the child.

As for tie-breaking provision, if both parents reach an impasse in making critical decisions for the children, then the trial court included a provision where there is a tie-breaking provision to permit that parent to ultimately make that important decision.

For a motion to modify custody, the trial court uses a two prongs (1) that there has been a material change of circumstances and (2) that the custody arrangement is the best interest of the children. The father contended that the trial court was in error because the court granted joint custody to parents who the trial court ruled could not communicate with each other. Here the parents believed it is in the best interest of the Father as well as with the Mother. The Court of Appeals ruled that there was no abuse of discretion from the lower courts.

The court also recognized that the joint custody arrangement had been problematic, but the trial court expressed that the parents had good relationship with their kids, could provide for them and loved them. The court repeatedly and candidly recognized that the parents could not cooperate well or communicate, but the court was focused on that the children’s need to stay involved with both parents. The courts have used tie-breaking provisions in joint custody awards based on poor communication.

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