The special bond between a parent and child should not be broken because of a divorce, the break-up of a non-marital relationship, or child custody issues. Maryland laws are in place to protect parent-child relationships when something causes a couple to split up or when custody issues arise. Even though mothers are often the primary caregivers after a divorce or split, a father’s role in the parent-child relationship is critically important. Studies show that children whose fathers are involved in their lives tend to do better academically and socially.
Having an involved father after a divorce or break-up should be a primary goal. When a couple is going through a divorce, a judge will decide who has legal custody of the child. Even if the parents agree on who will have custody, a judge will need to declare final custody. There are no set rules on who automatically gets custody of a child. The standard in Maryland and most other states is what is in the best interests of the child. To better understand a father’s rights regarding child custody, it is best to consult with a lawyer.
Do I Need to Establish Paternity in Maryland?
Establishing paternity is the first step in determining a father’s rights in Maryland. When a married couple has a child, state law automatically assumes that the mother and her husband are the child’s parents. When an unmarried couple has a child together, state law assumes that the mother is the biological and legal mother but that the child could miss out on a father-child relationship without established paternity.
Establishing paternity in Maryland is the legal process in which a biological father also becomes the child’s legal father. The couple can sign an Affidavit of Parentage form to determine paternity. This is a voluntary process and the most straightforward method. Once the affidavit is signed and witnessed, it becomes a legally binding document that may be difficult to overturn in the future. That is why both people need to be 100 percent sure of paternity. Couples who are unsure of paternity can use their right to DNA testing and allow the court to order the testing. After the tests are completed, the couple can settle at any time or go to court. If they go to court, a judge will use DNA test results and other evidence to establish the child’s biological and legal father.
The couple can also go to court to establish paternity. This route may be taken when a couple is not cooperative or when the father denies or questions paternity. The process begins when one of the parents or a government lawyer for the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) brings a paternity action to the court. The CSEA may decide to bring a paternity action to court if the mother or child receives government financial support since both parents must support the child financially.
Why Establish Paternity?
Formally establishing paternity when a couple is not married or when the father’s identity is in question is always in the child’s best interest. Benefits include:
- Fulfillment of child support obligations.
- Father will have rights under the law.
- Parents can work together to raise the child.
- The child can form relationships with both parents.
A couple should contact a child custody lawyer for guidance if paternity is an issue.
What are the Different Types of Custody?
Legal custody can be held jointly by both parents or solely by one parent. Legal custody provides the right to make major life decisions for the child, such as medical care, religious affiliation, and education. If there is joint custody, the parents share in this type of decision-making.
Physical custody can either be shared or sole. Sole custody is when one parent has physical custody of the child. The other non-custodial parent is almost always granted visitation rights. During this time, they have physical custody of the child. When physical custody is shared, both parents get a minimum of 128 overnight visitations, which equates to 35 percent of the year. Both must also contribute to the expenses of the child.
Does One Parent Still Have to Pay Child Support if They Share Custody?
A judge can award child support to be paid by one parent even if there is shared physical custody. Child support in Maryland is determined by a mathematical calculation set forth by the state. The following factors can determine the child support amount:
- Who has physical custody.
- The number of overnight stays each parent has.
- Gross income of each parent.
- Costs of child care, health insurance, and other medical costs.
What if the Parents Cannot Agree on a Joint Custody Schedule?
If the parent cannot agree on visitations, then the court will decide on a joint parenting schedule in the child’s best interests. A parent and their lawyer can request to modify child custody at any time. However, they must prove both material change in one or both parents’ circumstances and that the change requested is in the child’s best interest.
Baltimore Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Parents with Critical Child Custody Issues
Both fathers and mothers have rights regarding child custody. If you need to make child custody modifications or have questions about your custody rights, a Baltimore child custody lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help you. Our legal team will work diligently to ensure that your child’s best interests are a priority and that your rights are protected. Call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.