Navigating Custody and Developmental Milestones

Dana McKeeBy Dana McKee

We all know that babies, toddlers, and young children learn and grow incredibly fast.  As a parent of a newborn, I understand how exciting developmental milestones and achievements can be.  Your child’s new skill, whether it be smiling, waving, or taking that first step, should be celebrated by all.  While no two babies are alike and these developmental milestones are simply a guideline to your child’s growth, failure to meet certain timelines can be a signal that something is wrong with your child’s health.  This is why your child’s healthcare provider will evaluate such development at each visit.

But how do you keep track of your child’s development when the child is not in your custody every day?  For separated or divorced parents, the desire to witness their child’s developmental milestones can play a role in the type of legal and physical custody they seek in court.  It is also a good reason for parents to work on their co-parenting relationship.  Milestones should be commemorated in both households, and effective communication will be necessary if your child’s health needs to be addressed.

The domestic attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy have experience with divorce and custody cases involving children of all ages, as well as those with serious health or developmental issues.  Here are the answers to questions that we are often asked by separated or divorced parents wanting to stay involved in their child’s development:

Does the mother always get custody of a newborn child?

No – Maryland law does not favor either the mother or the father of a newborn child.  The law presumes that both biological parents are the natural custodians of their child.  Either parent may petition the court for custody.  It is important to remember that, in most cases, custody and visitation arrangements are not permanent.  When the circumstances of a parent or the child change, you may petition the court to modify a custody order.  The family law attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy have helped both mothers and fathers obtain custody of their minor children and modify existing court orders.

What custody schedule is best for my child’s development?

Maryland law looks to the best interests of the child standard when considering custody and visitation.  To determine the best interests of the child, the courts evaluate several factors, including each parent’s character, fitness, and ability to maintain close family relationships.  While custody schedules differ depending on the specific needs of the child, parents with shared physical custody of young children often prefer the “2-2-3” schedule.  Under this schedule, the child is with Parent A for 2 days, Parent B for 2 days, and then Parent A for 3 days.  The next week, the child is with Parent B for 2 days, Parent A for 2 days, and then Parent B for 3 days.  This schedule repeats throughout the year.  The 2-2-3 schedule allows parents to see their child each week, which is particularly helpful for parents wanting to be there to witness each developmental milestone.  Plus, child psychologists have found that children who have positive relationships with both parents tend to have fewer behavioral issues, higher self-esteem, and stronger peer relationships.

Do I need to communicate with the other parent regarding milestones?

No parent wants to miss out on big moments in their child’s life.  But for separated or divorced parents, these events often do not occur in the presence of both parents.  While you are not required to stay friends with your ex, respectful communication during your child’s early years can lead to healthy co-parenting habits for the future.  Such communication is particularly important when developmental delays need to be addressed.  We advise clients to approach their relationship with their child’s other parent as they would a business relationship, where the “business” is their child’s wellbeing.  You should communicate as politely as you would with a business colleague, and keep all conversations focused on the child.

Which parent can make decisions for the child’s medical care?

The right to make decisions regarding a child’s healthcare lies with the parent who has legal custody of the child.  A parent with sole legal custody can make major medical decisions for the child without consulting the other parent.  However, parents with joint legal custody must agree on major healthcare decisions, except in the case of an emergency.  In either case, parents are encouraged to communicate regarding the child’s health.

At Brown, Goldstein & Levy, our family law attorneys are here to find the best solutions for you and your minor children.  We understand how precious your children are, and we enjoy helping parents resolve their custody disputes.  Contact Dana McKee at 410-962-1030 to schedule a consultation.

Authored by

Dana McKee Partner