Custody Not Guaranteed – Understanding Maryland Mothers' and Fathers' Legal Standing

RE: This blog post has been re-posted and updated from its original publishing date, .

Motherhood does not guarantee child custody. On the other hand, proving that you are a great parent or guardian will.

Put it simply: You deserve the right to see your child. Fathers often misunderstand their custody rights and do not put up a fight to win custody of their child.

On the other hand, mothers sometimes assume that their custody is a given, when custody is not necessarily automatic. Whether you are a mother afraid of losing custody – or a father hoping to win it – Maryland law protects opportunities for both parents to gain custody of their children.

Why Mothers “Always” Receive Custody

The biggest misconception about child custody is that mothers have a better chance at winning custody, or that motherhood is grounds for full custody of the child. That is not true! Fathers who want custody of their children legally have the same chance as the mother. There are only two specific situations where mothers are guaranteed custody.

That is it. Those instances are the only two things standing in the way of a father and partial or full child custody.

For mothers, that means not taking custody for granted, especially after separation. Lawyer up, file for emergency custody, and leverage custody laws in your favor.

For fathers, know that Maryland law protects custody arrangements against gender discrimination. Most fathers disregard their chances of custody or partial custody.

As a father, you have equal chance of winning custody – but you won’t gain custody if you don’t even petition for it.

How Can A Mother Lose Custody Of Her Child?

Basically, any time a mother (or father!) breaks the law, they run the risk of losing custody -- either legal or physical -- of their children. That includes:

Abusive Mothers Lose Child Custody

A mother’s abuse and neglect results an automatic loss of child custody in Maryland. The ex’s custody lawyers will try to prove any sign of neglect towards the child so the mother loses custody. It is not just abuse against the child that the court considers during custody cases.

Although decisions can be reversed, if your ex can ever prove that the mother was abusive to anyone in the household, then the judge will likely deem the mother unfit to care for a child.

Again: If the mother is legally determined as the cause of a fundamentally abusive relationship, then the judge may decide against the mother's custody claim.

Mother or father, positive relationships with your ex will only be to your – and more importantly your child’s – benefit.

Mothers Abducting Children Will Lose Legal Custody

In court, abduction of your child will break your custody case.

Legally, leaving Maryland with your kids and not telling the other parent with a court-order already in place is considered abduction and an absolute no-no in any custody battle. It does not matter if you are with your children during visitation or it is your turn to have custody. Do not leave the state.

Courts make child custody decisions based on whatever is in “the best interest of the child.” Therefore, it would most likely deny or revoke child custody to any parent if they legally “abducted” their child.

Your ex’s lawyers would also frame this "abduction" in the worst way possible. Even if you ultimately win custody, the incident can still be used against you. A Request to Child Custody Modification would be filed if your ex’s lawyers “set forth special findings,” bringing a new case against you.

If you are ever unsure about traveling with your child during an open custody case, then check with your custody or divorce lawyer. They’ll help you do so without bringing down the wrath of Maryland courts or your ex on your fresh start.

Behavior During Divorce May Cause Mothers to Lose Custody

Divorce can trigger extremely delicate custody issues. Every move you make will be closely monitored during the divorce case. Then, those actions can be referenced during custody proceedings.

Dealing with your ex during divorce while also worrying about losing your child might strain even the calmest of tempers. Take a deep breath, and make sure your child stays out of the situation as much as possible. There are healthy places to relieve stress – just not in front of the kids.

Do not be bitter and petty during the divorce, either, especially when it comes to visitation. Preventing visitation with the other parent could cause you to lose custody. So long as the other parent is not abusive, preventing your kids from seeing dad makes you look back to both your kids and judges.

Finally, your child’s input during both divorce and custody cases may impact the court’s decisions. Keeping your child as free from divorce stress as possible while continuing to love them unconditionally will help convince the court you deserve custody.

After all, your child’s well-being should be most important consideration: To you, to your ex, and to the court.

Why You Should Establish Paternity While Fighting for Child Custody

Mothers can lose custody of their children if fathers prove that they can provide a home that would be in their best interest. Statistically, only 8-14% of fathers win full custody.

However, that finding doesn’t account for all the fathers discouraged from applying in the first place – perpetuating the stereotype. Establishing paternity is a father’s first step toward proving their case for sole custody. Paternity provides benefits for both you and your children, including:

  • A sense of identity for your child,
  • Eligibility for state and federal benefits,
  • Life insurance benefits, and
  • Right to child support.

However, legal paternity does not guarantee any form of child custody. And, Maryland paternity laws require that once you establish yourself, you are legally responsible for childcare and welfare.

Remember, child custody is decided as what would be “in the best interest” of your child, so proving paternity for the benefit of your child is a father’s ticket to earning custody.

Maryland Courts Change Child Custody

The state of Maryland cares most about providing the best life for your child, regardless of gender.

The court does not take away custody to be mean or petty. Mothers will lose custody when the court believes another guardian will provide better for the child. Fathers will win full or joint custody if they convince the court doing so is in the child’s best interest.

What you should care about most is your child – not getting back at your ex. Prioritizing your kid and treating your family and ex with love and respect will guarantee your place in your child’s life.

We are here to help protect your child’s health, happiness, and well-being through the custody process. Contact us for a free first consultation to see what can be done to keep your family as safe as possible.

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