Raising a child can be difficult at the best of times, and if parents or partners come into conflict, this issue becomes even more daunting. Child custody issues typically arise when parents disagree on who should be responsible for child care and to what degree. Most often, this happens due to divorce or separation, when the parents will no longer live in the same household.
Maryland law includes protections for fathers in situations in which child custody is being decided. Fathers must be strong advocates for their rights during custody hearings because the mother is most commonly awarded primary custody (approximately 65% of cases).
Every father should understand what rights he has when custody of a minor child is being determined, whether during a divorce or in the context of the separation of unmarried partners.
What Are a Father’s Rights in Maryland?
In Maryland, numerous rules govern how a father may proceed with a custody claim. The state presumes that a woman’s husband is also the father of any children in the household. For same-sex couples and those who are unmarried, the state does not automatically grant parental rights, requiring further action.
This may include a paternity test and resulting court order or a second-parent adoption. Once paternity has been established using an applicable method, Maryland law grants certain rights to that parent when determining child custody. They are:
Equal Evaluation as the Primary Caregiver
Courts must fairly evaluate both parents to determine who the primary caregiver should be for the minor child. Maryland is one of the states that considers the child’s will as long as they are 16 years old or older. Multiple factors can impact how the father is perceived during custody arrangements and must be evaluated equitably.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to be involved in pivotal decisions about a child’s life. These include choices about education, medical treatment, and religious participation.
In Maryland, fathers have the right to be involved in these decisions, even if they are not the primary caregiver. If the primary custodian is refusing to cooperate or acknowledge paternal decisions in these matters, consult with a professional legal team.
Visitation rights are sometimes called physical custody rights, and they refer to a father’s right to see and spend time with his child in person. Unless a father is deemed unfit or dangerous to the child, they have the right to see the minor for a period of time in person. Visitation schedules can be determined during a child custody hearing.
Child Support Payments
In qualifying situations, fathers in Maryland have the right to acquire child support payments from their spouses. The state determines child support payments based upon who has sole or primary custody of the minor.
For fathers who have achieved majority custody, their wife or partner may be required to pay child support to offset a portion of the cost of raising the child. Men are not always the legally responsible party for child support; a skilled attorney can help you fight against this latent bias in many court systems.
Maryland law includes provisions for the father of a child to remain informed about their life. In cases in which the father is not the primary custodian, they still have the right to information regarding the child’s education, health, and overall well-being.
This can include access to medical records or notification when the other parent attempts to travel internationally using the child’s passport.
The Rights of Non-Marital Partners
Not all parental couples are married, but this does not mean that the father loses his rights during issues of custody. However, the father will need to establish paternity before he can pursue any of his rights. This can be done using a DNA test or by signing an affidavit.
Alternatively, the father may marry the child’s mother and then acknowledge paternity. Regardless of what type of situation unmarried partners find themselves in, the first step toward achieving paternal rights is legally establishing paternity. Once this has been achieved, a father’s rights are the same as those for married couples.
Defend Your Rights as a Father When Custody Challenges Arise
Custody disputes can be a tumultuous time of stress and emotions. However, fathers deserve and have the right to equal opportunity and treatment during this process. For more than 30 years, the attorneys at SIEGELLAW have been helping fathers achieve custody of their children and maintain their rights to visitation and child support. Contact SIEGELLAW to schedule a consultation to navigate the child custody process.