June 14, 2018
Dads and Divorce – Keeping the Kids
Q: Will the court automatically grant custody to my wife (or girlfriend)?
Not anymore. Fathers play a critically important role in the lives of their children and Maryland law recognizes this by providing fathers with rights that allow them to establish and maintain their paternal relationships. This is the number one question I get from fathers in the throes of separation and/or divorce, which stems from their concern about the wellbeing of their children. Much of this concern is based on an old law that was overturned years ago, misconceptions and stereotypes that no longer have a place in family law decisions.
In Maryland, the court determines all custody cases based upon what custody the court believes is in the best interests of the children and custody laws are gender neutral. (This standard is worthy of an entire book and will be explored in future blogs.) The court determines which parent is better suited to make medical, educational and religious decisions on behalf of the children (known as legal custody) and what access schedule with each parent would be best for the children (known as physical custody). The belief that mothers are innate caregivers and therefore generally better suited to care for the kids is still argued today, despite that law having been overturned years ago, and the court is tasked with making an unbiased determination of what custody schedule would be in the best interests of the children, taking into consideration many custody factors, including, but not limited to, the psychological and physical fitness of each parent, the character of each parent, the demands of each parent’s employment, the age and number of children, the financial status of each parent, etc.
Under Maryland law, when a married couple has a child, it is automatically presumed that the mother and her husband are the child’s parents. When a couple is not married, the process becomes more complicated, but with the help of an attorney the father may obtain custody and/or visitation with the child. In that situation, one of the of the most important steps in enforcing a father’s rights is establishing paternity to ensure that the child’s biological father also becomes the child’s legal father if the biological father is not listed on the child’s birth certificate.
Fathers that want an equal say in how their children are raised and who have been an active and positive influence in their children’s lives have just as good a chance as the children’s mother of being awarded primary or joint custody according to Maryland law.
I am always trying to inspire my clients to reach their divorce and/or custody goals by providing insightful and empowering legal advice. I thrive on helping clients understand how to successfully navigate the changes in their family dynamics to preserve family relationships and achieve the best outcome possible for the benefit of their children. When I’m not helping clients, I am running around with my husband and our two young and extremely active children and our Pug, Wali.
DISCLAIMER: The materials available on this blog are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular issue or problem.
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