House Bill 1132, if passed, would establish a presumption in favor of joint custody for children in Maryland. The Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates is considering the bill, which would add the following as Section 9-109 to the Maryland Family Law Article:
IN AN INITIAL CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDING, WHETHER PENDENTE LITE OR PERMANENT, INVOLVING THE PARENTS OF A CHILD, THERE IS A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION THAT:
(1) JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD; AND
(2) PHYSICAL CUSTODY TO EACH PARENT FOR APPROXIMATELY EQUAL PERIODS OF TIME IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD.
Similar bills have failed before, but they are always hotly debated with strong advocates on either side. I’m not sure it really makes that much difference in the end in litigation. With or without the presumption, the judge still decides whether custody should be joint or sole with one parent or the other, based on what the judge thinks is in the best interest of the child. In settlement negotiations, however, it might replace “every other weekend” as a starting position.