Father’s Rights | 10 Things to Know About Child Custody in Howard County, MD
For most fathers, there is very little in this world more important than the wellbeing of his child(ren). Issues of child custody and parental rights arise when the wellbeing of the child needs to be protected. For dads facing this situation, having knowledge about fathers rights under Maryland law – along with a firm understanding of his ability to protect & provide for the child – is critical to ensuring the child is raised in the best environment possible. It is important that the father be well-informed about the Maryland Court’s position and rules regarding child custody as he makes decisions regarding his child’s life and future.
10 Key Points About Fathers Rights Relating to Child Custody in Howard County, MD:
- Maryland Courts will defer to the parents if they manage to come to an agreement on their own. Even so, this child custody agreement can be struck down or modified by the Courts if it is somehow ruled to be in conflict with the best interests of the child.
- There are two aspects to child custody: physical and legal. They are not the same, and the Court will address both types in any custody agreement.
- If there is a direct conflict between the mother and father about who should have custody and whether it should be joint custody (shared between the parents) or sole custody (in the hands of one parent), it is important that fathers have a clear understanding of the law – both what it is, and what it is NOT.
- The deciding standard in Maryland is what is in the best interest of the child. According to Maryland Judiciary, “there is no exhaustive list of factors that the court will use when determining custody. Instead, the court considers the ‘totality of circumstances’ surrounding the care of the child.” For more information, check out the Maryland Court Child Custody Standard.
- There is NOT a presumption towards the mother. If there is a conflict and the father believes that having shared or sole custody is in the best interests of his child, the question boils down to whether the circumstances support that decision. A good family law attorney can help a father determine what his legal rights are in such a situation, how to go about protecting those rights, and how to protect the interests of the child in the process.
- The Court’s application of the “Best Interest of the Child” standard includes weighing many factors.Since the standard is broad and encompasses many parts, it is critical that a father has accurate information about what the courts will evaluate so that he can be well prepared to protect the interests of his child. While there is no comprehensive list of what the courts will consider when making custody decisions, some examples include:
- Stability of the living situation of each parent
- Financial factors contributing to the ability of each parent to provide a stable living situation (including spousal support, where applicable)
- School the child would attend in either situation
- Nearby family and friends that can impact the child’s quality of life.
- Any child custody agreement, whether agreed to previously or not, can be modified due to a change of circumstances. If the change is considered temporary, the court is unlikely to modify the permanent order. Instead, they typically monitor the situation or make a temporary recommendation until the issue at hand is resolved. Regardless of the history of the child custody agreement, a change in circumstances can lead to a different result should either parent decide to pursue a change in the custody agreement.
- The age of the children impacts the ability of each child to contribute to the process. Small children usually do not have a say in their custody arrangement. However, as children get older, they have the ability to impact the Court’s decision. When children reach sixteen years old, they can petition the courts as to which parent they prefer to live with – regardless of who has custody.
- When discussing fathers rights, it is important to recognize that even if the mother has sole physical custody, the father still has a significant say in the upbringing of his child. This is especially true if parents have joint legal custody.
- Transgressions in the past – including criminal convictions – do not necessarily prevent a father from obtaining joint (or even sole) custody. With the exception of the most severe/violent crimes, the Court makes the decision about custody based upon the best interest of the child. If it is in the best interest of the child, a parent with an imperfect past can still gain some form of child custody, or at least visitation. A father should not let mistakes in the past prevent him from seeking some form of contact with his child.
- In Maryland, fathers rights for unmarried dads are the same as married dads in regard to child custody. To take advantage of his full legal rights, a man simply must establish his status as the father in court. How one should proceed depends on the facts of the particular situation. Receiving professional counsel from a competent family law attorney early in the process can save the father a lot time, money and stress down the road.
- In addition to the clear legal and policy issues, managing the relationship with a former spouse or partner is also an important part of the process. In Maryland, even if parents agree to share custody equally, if there is a lot of conflict about key decisions (such as the religion the child should be raised with), the court may decide to intervene and alter the terms of the agreement. Professional guidance about how to manage the relationship with the other parent is key in yielding a positive result.
Child custody is clearly a complex situation. Arriving at a result that protects fathers rights as well as the interests of the child in the most meaningful way possible means juggling a considerable amount of information, knowledge and judgment. Effective legal advice is invaluable in the process of achieving a favorable outcome. Fred L. Coover, Esq. of Coover Law Firm, LLC in Columbia, MD is highly-experienced in fathers rights and Howard County child custody disputes. He is committed to the resolution of custody child matters in an atmosphere of mutual respect and sensitivity to the child’s needs. Contact us today at (410) 995-1100 to help you resolve child custody matter with personal attention to long-term needs and lasting family relationships.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.