What Questions to Ask the Best Maryland Divorce Attorneys about Children in Divorce

Frustrated little girl upset of parents fight looking at camera - Law Office of Shelly Ingram

When a marriage breaks down, it is all too easy for parents to make the divorce all about their own needs. No matter the age, children are significantly affected when the family unit splits. Here are some questions to ask the best Maryland divorce attorneys about how to protect your children during divorce.

This blog post will describe key questions to ask the best Maryland divorce attorneys about how children can be affected by divorce. It will touch on ways to minimize the traumatic impact of a divorce, and will address cases when more extreme custody decisions must be made to protect your children.

Question: Will You Lose Your Children in the Divorce?

Many parents, especially fathers, sit down to meet with a Maryland divorce attorney with one priority in mind: they can’t lose their children in the divorce. The reverse is also true. Some parents are looking for ways to cut the other parent off from the children. When they say “sole custody” they mean they don’t want the other parent involved at all.

However, this mindset turns children into possessions and can create a custody battle that hurts everyone involved. It also does not line up with the way Maryland courts handle custody cases. In all but the most extreme cases, the court is going to enter a custody and visitation order that divides the children’s time between both parties. Even when the court awards “sole custody” to one parent or the other, the non-custodial parent will be entitled to see and spend time with the children on a regular basis.

Question: Who Will Get Custody of the Children in Divorce?

Rather than looking at if you will lose your children, the better question for your divorce attorney is, “What will the custody order look like in my case?” Maryland courts have the ability to enter sole, joint, or shared custody orders which direct who will make decisions for the children and where will they spend their days (or nights). In deciding this, the court will consider:

  • Who was the primary caregiver before the divorce
  • The physical and psychological fitness of the parents (including any history of abuse)
  • Character and reputation
  • Any existing custody or visitation agreements
  • Who will help the children maintain existing family relationships
  • The child’s preference (if they are old enough to have one)
  • Which parent has the financial ability to provide for the child’s material needs
  • The age, health, and gender of the child
  • Geographical considerations
  • The length of separation between parent and child
  • Prior abandonment or surrender of custody
  • Religious views that affect the physical or emotional well-being of the child

Depending on your family’s circumstances, and the arguments made by your Maryland divorce attorney, the judge will fashion an order that takes into account decision making, visitation, holidays, transportation, and other concerns.

The parties may also reach their own parenting plan during mediation or other negotiations. This agreement controls all the same issues, but rather than a judge telling you what to do, you and your former spouse decide what is best for your children together. If you are able to reach your own parenting plan, you have the option to include terms that are beyond that which the law will allow. In many cases, an out-of-court agreement is the better option for children and for parents, especially when children’s extracurricular activities or special needs conflict with more traditional visitation schedules.

Question: How Can You Protect Your Children from an Abusive Parent?

Sometimes when parents are looking for a divorce it is to escape a dangerous situation at home. When one parent is abusive, the other may ask what he or she can do to protect the children when visitation is the norm. When a child’s health or welfare could be negatively affected, a judge may order that the abusive parent’s visitation be supervised, restricted to only public places, or even denied. This is rare, and should only be raised in the most significant case, but sometimes it is necessary.

If you are the target of the abuse rather than your children, you may also be able to ask your Maryland divorce attorney to help you get a protection order, or limit parenting exchanges to a safe space like a police station or supervised exchange center. This may seem inconvenient, but in some cases, these safety measures can protect you and your children from further abuse.

Any time there is a history of abuse it is also a good idea to introduce your children to an age-appropriate counselor or therapist. Any divorce is hard on children, but when abuse is involved, they may feel like they have no one to talk to about what has happened in each parent’s home. A counselor provides your children with a safe third party to talk to, and gives you the added assurance that if anything inappropriate does happen, there is another adult looking out for your kids.

Question: What Can You Do to Minimize the Effect of Divorce on Children?

The best question you can ask your Maryland divorce attorney when you start a divorce is what you can do to minimize its effects on your children. Whether your child is 2, 12, or 20, he or she will be affected by your choice to separate. This change doesn’t have to be traumatic, though. You can do the following things to help your children through the transition:

  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings with you and other adults they trust
  • Make sure they know you will be there for them after the divorce is over
  • Reassure them that the divorce is not their fault
  • Keep them out of heated negotiations
  • Avoid talking negatively to them about their other parent
  • Don’t ask them to pass along information (keep them out of the middle)
  • Spend time with them or make yourself available to them
  • Let them be upset with you and your former spouse
  • Get them help when they need it

Your Maryland divorce attorney can help you develop specific strategies to reduce conflict between you and your former spouse and minimize the effect of divorce on your children. By talking to a lawyer early, you can make sure to put good practices in place early, before you or your spouse accidentally hurt your children.

At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our divorce attorneys put children first. We will guide you through the divorce process and help you keep in mind the way your behavior, and that of your spouse, may affect the children today and in the future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

Categories: Custody

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