The Ins and Outs of Joint Legal Custody
We offer appointments by phone, video, or in-person.
Andalman and Flynn logo

The Ins and Outs of Joint Legal Custody

Apr 7, 2023 | Articles, Child Custody

By: Mary Ellen Flynn, Esq.

When you think of custody, most parents think only of a custody schedule with visitation. However, a Maryland court will issue an order addressing legal custody as well.

Legal custody refers to the decision-making about the child. Legal decisions, including education, religion, and the child’s medical care, must be made. Physical custody refers to the child’s schedule between the parents. This will include weekday and weekend visitations and holiday and vacation schedules.

As parents who are no longer together, you have to decide if you will have joint or sole legal and physical custody. If you cannot decide, a judge will do so.

1. Joint legal custody means both parents have a right and say so in all legal decisions about their child.

For joint legal custody, this means that both parents will together make all decisions about the care or welfare of the child.  Therefore, the parents must agree before the child can attend a school or undergo a medical procedure. If one parent is given sole legal custody, then that parent may solely make the important decisions relating to the child.

2. Joint physical custody means the child will have shared time between both parent’s homes, and both parents will contribute to the child’s expenses.

In many cases, the parents will split 50/50 residential custody, which means the child will spend equal time at both homes. One of the most common custody schedules for joint physical custody is the 2-2-5-5 schedule. With this schedule, the child will spend two days with one parent, two days with the other parent, five days with one parent, and so on. However, different schedules may work better for a family, such as a child living with one parent during the school year and the other during the summer and vacation time away from school.

As parents, if you cannot reach an agreement to address legal and physical custody, then you will have to seek the assistance of a court of law to decide. Based on the facts of your case, the courts have the discretion to determine what is in the child’s best interest. The court will only award joint legal custody if the parents are willing to cooperate.

The best interest of the child standard includes the judge receiving evidence of and considering:

  1. The fitness of each of the parents to make decisions for the child.
  2. The character and reputation of each parent.
  3. The desire for any agreements between the parties.
  4. The ability to maintain a family relationship.
  5. The preference of the child.
  6. Material opportunities affecting the future of the child.
  7. The age, health, and sex of the child.
  8. The residences of the parents and the opportunity for visitation.
  9. The length of separation the child will have from the parents.
  10. Any prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of the child by a parent.
  11. The parent’s ability to communicate and reach shared decisions about the child.
  12. The willingness of the parties to share custody.
  13. The relationship established between the child and each party.
  14. The potential disruption of the child’s social and school life.
  15. The geographic proximity of the parent’s homes.
  16. The demands of the parent’s employment.
  17. The age and number of children.
  18. The sincerity of the parent’s requests.
  19. The financial status of the parties.
  20. The impact of any state or federal assistance.

Plus, any other factors the court finds helpful in deciding. The court does not take these decisions lightly, nor should the parents. Custody cases are complex and have a lasting impact on every family member. If you or someone you know is going through a custody dispute, don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Andalman and Flynn and schedule a consultation.

About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The Firm practices family lawestate planning, and probate throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The Firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone and is there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The Firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and its attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at or call 301.563.6685.