Has your marriage hit a rough patch? If so, then you might be wondering if divorce is the right move. If your like many of the other people in Maryland who are considering marriage dissolution, then you might be hesitant. Not because of the financial ramifications of divorce, as serious as they can be, but because you worry about how divorce and its resulting child custody arrangement might affect your relationship with your child.
When child custody and visitation matters can’t be settled amongst parents, they have to be addressed by the court. In rendering its decisions, the court will determine which kind of arrangement furthers the child’s best interests. The best interests standard is pretty all-encompassing. The court might consider the relationship between the child and each parent, each parent’s financial resources, any history of abuse or neglect, and how a proposed custody or visitation arrangement may affect a child’s educational and cultural upbringing.
However, when dealing with these matters, parents often find themselves amidst “he said, she said” scenarios, and the facts can be hard to discern. As a result, a family court in Maryland may require that a child custody evaluation be undertaken.
These evaluations, which are conducted by a trained mental health professional, seek to evaluate a child’s developmental, mental, and psychological needs, as well as each parent’s ability to meet those needs. To best assess each parent’s strengths and weaknesses, an evaluator may conduct interviews with the parents and the child, observe parenting time, and even recommend some form of mental health assessment. The results of these evaluations can play a pivotal role in a child custody determination.
So, what does this mean for you as a parent who is considering divorce? It means that you need to be prepared to potentially be under the court’s microscope when addressing child custody matters. You also need to have a strong understanding of not only your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses as a parent, but also your own so that you can take the steps necessary to mitigate any negative impact on your attempt to secure a custody arrangement that you think is best for your child.
Of course, if you think you can end your relationship with your spouse amicably, then you may be able to simply negotiate an arrangement that allows for effective co-parenting. However, by being fully prepared and knowledgeable about what to expect from the process, you can quell some of your fears about divorce and move toward a relationship that protects your child from the toxicity of a failed marriage.