When it comes to custody, who serves the child's best interest determines who retains custodial rights and caretaking decisions. Parenting is not for everyone, and sometimes one parent is better off raising the kids. Maryland courts look to keep family relationships intact, but there are times when one parent should pursue full custody. Learn about:
Full custody, what does it mean;
Grounds for full custody fall under a child's best interest; And
There are pros and cons to full custody; know when it's best or not.
What Does Full Custody Mean?
As parents, we assume an enormous responsibility for the care and well-being of our children. Sometimes we have to co-parent because of a divorce or separation, but what happens if one parent is unfit or doesn't want to be a parent?
Those situations call for full custody of the child. In Maryland, the courts use the term "sole legal and physical custody," but it is the same thing as full custody. The terms describe when one parent makes all the decisions about raising children, such as health, education, general welfare, and religion, and it means that they only live with one parent.
Now, because they live with only one parent and make all the decisions, it does not mean the other parent cannot have visitation rights. In full custody agreements, one parent is the custodial parent, and the other is the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent can have time to spend with their children through visits.
There are caveats to gaining full custody as Maryland may award full "physical" custody, sole "legal" custody, or both. Full "physical" custody grants one parent the right to be the physical custodian of where they live.
In contrast, full "legal" custody is the right to make long-term decisions for education, religion, discipline, healthcare, and other matters of significance concerning a child. Having both awarded represents a custody order where the child(ren) lives with one parent who also makes all the caretaking decisions about the kids. The other parent may have visitations.
Depending on the court's decision of the child's best interest will determine how they reward custody. To gain sole "physical" and "legal" custody, a parent must prove it is in the child's best interest to be cared for and live only with them. Because you think you're the best parent for the child does not mean the court will feel the same.
With that in mind, these are the grounds to petition for full custody…
Best Interest of the Child – This is the Maryland courts' most significant factor in determining custody. If you want full custody of the kids, then be prepared with a valid reason why that IS in the children's best interest.
Relocation – When a parent decides to move to another country or state, it becomes the child's best interest to keep them in a single household for stability.
Incarceration – It is impossible to have custody of children if you are behind bars, making it necessary to award sole custody.
Abandonment – Sometimes, people are overwhelmed by the thought of being a parent and cannot be one. Usually, the parent affected fails to stay in contact with the child, shows no interest in them, and even outright leaves, never to be seen or heard from again.
Mental Illness – A parent with a mental health disorder might make unpredictable or irrational decisions that are not in the child's best interest. A suicidal or untreated parent is not the person who should be caring for children.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse – A parent with an addiction can be a danger to a child, especially since the habit becomes more critical than parental responsibilities. Drugs and alcohol rule an addict's life, prohibiting them from adequately caring for a child.
Neglect – You cannot be a parent if you neglect your child. Children must have proper food, medical care, and shelter to protect their well-being. Neglecting these necessities shows a lapse in judgment by the parent, requiring the responsible party to have sole custody.
Abuse – Any parent's single most important duty is keeping children from harm. If a parent has physically, sexually, or emotionally abused the other parent or any child, they are dangerous. The best interest of the child is to remove them from the abuse.
Courtroom Behavior – No disruptive outbursts in the courtroom. Keep your cool and listen to what the judge or attorney tells you to do. The more rational and calmer you appear in court goes a long way in showing you are the better custodial parent.
How You Dress – Look like the responsible parent. Wear a suit, dress, and formal business attire to court. Dressing serious means you're serious about the matter at hand.
Documentation – Bring all the pertinent paperwork, photos, files, etc., that you need for custody. (A lawyer helps tremendously with the necessary preparation.) This preparation shows a higher level of responsibility.
When any of the above grounds occur, there is a good chance for a parent to gain full custody.
Benefits and Shortfalls of Full Custody
Sole custody is a tremendous responsibility and not always the right decision. Because of this significant obligation, any parent considering the pursuit of full custody should carefully consider the pluses and minuses of being the sole caretaker:
Communication is limited, reducing conflict.
It is discouraging to the parent who "loses" custody. They may not feel like a true parent and feel disappointed and depressed.
Significant decisions are more manageable because it's up to one parent.
It may become a point of conflict between parents.
Creates a stable environment for children to live in.
Overwhelming to make all the major decisions about a child's well-being.
There is no need to track down an absent parent to decide about children.
Limits one parent's involvement, making them appear as less important to the kids.
Safety – keeps kids away from dangerous situations when a parent is an addict or unstable.
With only one parent speaking on the children's behalf, it could cause a strain in the custodian and child relationship.
No confusion for the kids – differing parenting beliefs are avoided.
The parent without custody could withdraw from the children further because they feel less important.
Once you have carefully considered the type of custody that is best for the children and the parents, the next step is to petition the court for your custodial rights.
Our team of caring family attorneys is ready to fight for the custody that is best for you and your kids. Contact us today for a free initial consultation about your custody situation and learn how to gain full custody of your child(ren). Your kids deserve the best possible custody for their well-being.