This week on Lawyer Says, our family law department addresses a Maryland man who thinks his fiancée’s ex won’t show up for their scheduled custody hearing, and what could happen if that’s the case.
The Question: What happens if an ex no-shows a custody hearing?
So my fiancée is looking to get full custody of her child, due to the father being absent. Her child is around 8 months old, and while she’s been taking care of her, the father is off doing hard drugs and who knows what else. My main question is, what exactly happens if the father doesn’t appear when the court summons him, because I find that being the most likely outcome.
The Answer: Only evidence presented at the custody hearing can be considered by a judge for custodial rights. The judge would make a decision regardless of whether the father was there to present evidence or not.
If an opposing party doesn’t show up to a custody hearing, then they lose out on the opportunity to present a case and evidence for custody to the presiding judge.
Only evidence from the parties present at the hearing would be considered, and the judge will make their custody ruling based on the evidence presented to them at the hearing’s end.
The purpose of a custody hearing is to allow both parties to argue for the type or share of custody that they should be granted. In most cases, that equals split time between the parents, with one as the custodial parent and the other as the non-custodial parent. In the case outlined above, one parent is (or may end up being) absent from the hearing, thus preventing their side of the story from being told.
A decision can only be made by the judge based on what they hear, so if the opposing party doesn’t attend, the subscriber’s fiancée would basically get the chance to share her entire argument for custody unopposed. In Maryland, the judge would make a default judgment against the father during the hearing, since he isn’t present to provide an argument for his custody rights.
Please note that this does not mean that the father is giving up his parental rights, so he’d still have the opportunity to go back to court to modify custody at a later date. However, it goes without saying that missing a custody hearing is only going to greatly hurt your case to argue for your desired custody of a child.
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Our automatic disclaimer: We’re lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We’re providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual’s attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a “real” response!