When the court must determine which parent receives custody and to what extent, conflict can arise between parties vying for a favorable outcome. In these situations, fathers often do not understand what rights they have compared to the female parent and thus fail to exercise the full extent of their legal power to secure custody or visitation.
Maryland law grants fathers numerous rights, such as the right to be equally considered alongside the mother for sole or primary custody, the right to receive child support, and more. In order to properly approach the court process, it is critical that fathers understand the basics of child custody.
Here is an overview of the types of child custody that a father should be aware of, how custody is determined, how visitation may differ, and how the child’s own thoughts and feelings may contribute to the equation.
The Two Primary Types of Child Custody
Child custody can be divided into two primary types: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to how long a child spends in the presence of a parent, such as living with them. Legal custody dictates who can make decisions regarding the child, such as their religious practices, educational choices, medical procedures, and more.
Both physical and legal custody can be awarded solely or jointly—in other words, parents may share these duties, or they may be assigned to only one parent depending on what is best for the child. A parent with sole physical custody will have the child live with them, whereas parents with joint physical custody will split time with the child.
The same is true of legal custody, in which one parent may be solely responsible or decision-making may be shared. In cases where the parents have demonstrated that they cannot amicably make decisions together, one parent may be awarded “tie-breaking” power to resolve stalemates when the two parties cannot agree.
Determination of Sole or Joint Custody in Maryland
Sole or joint custody is awarded based on a variety of factors that Maryland courts will consider. These include:
- Each parent’s living situation – If one parent is unhoused, they are less likely to be awarded physical custody.
- Income – A parent needs to be able to provide for the material needs of the child before they are awarded custody.
- Previous interactions with the child – A parent who has been in conflict with the child or has demonstrated negative behavior in the past may not be awarded custody.
- The best interest of the child – The court seeks to make the child happy and assist them in flourishing, which means that their own considerations also matter. Who do they approach when they have a problem? Who usually makes their meals or helps with homework? This parent is more likely to be awarded a greater proportion of custody responsibilities.
Visitation Agreements by Maryland Law
Maryland allows for multiple types of visitation setups to facilitate parents spending equitable time with their children. Most will choose a 2-2-5 method, where a child spends two days with each parent and every other weekend.
However, week on/week off is also possible, as are other arrangements for non-custodial parents, such as meeting for dinner and spending one overnight weekend every other week.
If a parent has previously been involved in an incident with the child, Maryland law may require that visitation is supervised. This may continue indefinitely or may gradually taper into unsupervised visitation.
Parents may elect to agree on their own visitation terms to present to the court. However, it is the court that determines what is in the best interest of a child, and it has the right to strike down an agreement regardless of whether both parties consent to it on their own.
Can the Child Choose?
In Maryland, a child may explain their desired outcome to be factored into the custodial decision, but they may not directly choose who gets custody and under what terms.
However, their wishes are weighed heavily where appropriate—a child’s wants may not be incorporated if they want to spend time with only one parent because that parent has a gaming system, but their wishes will be duly considered when a child expresses that one parent does not meet their needs physically or emotionally.
Defend Your Rights to Child Custody with a Legal Team
If you are faced with going to court to secure child custody, be sure that you are maximizing your rights as a father to fair and equal treatment. The team at SIEGELLAW helps fathers to secure custody arrangements that appropriately consider their circumstances. Contact SIEGELLAW to schedule a consultation before your next custody hearing.