Fathers have equal rights to their children!
I am often asked by my male clients if they have any chance at primary physical or shared physical custody of their child. The answer is a resounding, “OF COURSE!”
Many people assume that courts give mothers more rights to children, particularly custody rights, than fathers. This presumption is incorrect.
No State grants the presumption of rights for custody to mothers. Every court evaluates a case based on what is in the best interest of the children.
Remember, in Maryland there are two types of custody: PHYSICAL (where the child puts his or her head at night) and LEGAL (decision-making regarding the health, education and welfare of a child).
Many Fathers Are Awarded Custody of their Children
It may often be the case that granting a mother primary custody is not in the best interest of a child. In the State of Maryland, there is NO PRESUMPTION that a mother is the naturally-superior custodian of a child. There are instances where fathers actually have a custody advantage over a child’s mother. In the State of Maryland, the court looks to the BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD in making a determination who should have primary custody of a child. Examples where a father may have a superior right to a child—where the mother has a history of drug abuse or is accused of physically abusing a child. In some families, children may have extremely strong emotional attachments with their father and the mother can be a detriment to a healthy relationship between the father and child. In most cases, the law dictates that the parents come to court on an equal footing insofar as custody decisions are concerned.
Understanding Parental Rights
In addition to custody, parental rights involve a parent’s right to make decisions on behalf of the children. In Maryland, this is called legal custody. It pertains to the health, welfare and education of a child. Decision-making rights reside with both parents, unless one of the parents has acted in a way that could harm the child. In those cases the court may rule that one parent is no longer in the child’s best interest. Examples of decisions that involve parental rights include choices about where the children attend school health care the children may or may not receive, and the religion the children will be taught. Another example is, the quality time parents can spend with their children, regardless of which parent is granted custody.
Defend Your Right to Be a Father to Your Child
All children deserve the care and love of a mother and a father in their lives. If you are a father who seeks primary custody of your own children, you should not be deterred by gender stereotypes, or by a presumption that their mother has more rights than you do.
Moreover, regardless of the court’s ultimate decision on custody arrangements, you should vigorously assert your rights to share in the decision-making for the health, care, and well-being of your child.