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Standards for designating a parent as primary caretaker

When a Maryland couple with children decides to divorce, they need to agree on how to divide parenting time. Otherwise, a family court will decide the terms. A judge will consider many issues when determining child custody cases. In most cases, the court will award sole or primary physical custody to the parent who has been the primary caregiver.

Research by psychologists has suggested that children benefit from continuity in their care. Breaking the bond between a child and the parent that provided daily care could be detrimental. For this reason, the law allows for the possibility of assigning the majority of time to one parent.

To make such a selection, a judge will examine the extent to which parents performed and divided child care duties. These duties include bathing, dressing, meal planning, cooking, buying clothes, laundry, health care arrangements, signing kids of up for extracurricular activities, helping with homework and planning recreational outings. If parents divided these tasks more or less equally, the court will focus heavily on what would be in the best interests of the child. Factors to be considered will often include the physical and mental health of each parent, the child's preference if old enough to express it, and any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse on the part of a parent.

During a child custody dispute, an attorney might be able to promote a parent's desire to maintain a relationship with a child. As court proceedings can often become bitter, an attorney might suggest that mediation may be a more appropriate alternative.

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