Imagine you're a young man named Alex who's been in a committed relationship with your girlfriend for several years. Together, you've welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. You've been a loving, attentive father from day one, but things have taken a turn for the worse. Your relationship with your girlfriend has deteriorated to the point where you're considering a breakup, and you're worried about your rights as a father. Will you be able to maintain a relationship with your child? What happens if your girlfriend tries to take sole custody? If you're an unmarried father in Maryland, it's crucial to understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Let's explore what you need to know about custody for unmarried fathers in Maryland.
When it comes to child custody disputes, unmarried fathers face unique challenges. In Maryland, fathers who were not married to the mother at the time of the child's birth must take additional steps to establish their parental rights. If you're an unmarried father in Maryland, here's what you need to know about child custody:
The first step for an unmarried father seeking custody of his child in Maryland is to establish paternity. This can be done in several ways, including:
Signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born
Completing a genetic test to confirm paternity
Filing a Complaint to Establish Paternity with the court
Once paternity is established, the father can move forward with seeking custody or visitation.
Types of Custody
In Maryland, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child's upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who is responsible for their day-to-day care.
Unmarried fathers can seek either joint or sole custody. Joint custody means that both parents share legal and/or physical custody of the child. Sole custody means that only one parent has legal and/or physical custody.
Factors Considered in Custody Cases
When deciding custody cases, the court considers several factors, including:
The child's age, health, and well-being
Each parent's ability to care for the child
Each parent's relationship with the child
The child's preference, if they are old enough to express it
Each parent's living situation and ability to provide a stable home environment
Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent
The court's top priority in any custody case is the best interests of the child. It's important for fathers to gather evidence and present a strong case to the court to demonstrate why joint or sole custody is in the child's best interests.
Challenges for Unmarried Fathers
Unmarried fathers face unique challenges when seeking custody, including:
Lack of legal rights: Until paternity is established, an unmarried father has no legal rights to custody or visitation.
Mother's preference: In some cases, the mother may have a preference for sole custody or limited visitation for the father.
Bias against fathers: Unfortunately, there can be a bias against unmarried fathers in custody cases, with some assuming that the mother is always the better caregiver.
It's important for unmarried fathers to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help them navigate these challenges and present a strong case for custody.
How to Get Help
If you're an unmarried father in Maryland seeking custody of your child, it's important to work with an experienced family law attorney who understands the unique challenges you face. At The JC Law Group, LLC, we have years of experience helping fathers establish paternity and seek custody or visitation. We understand the emotional and financial strain these cases can place on families, and we are committed to providing our clients with compassionate, personalized legal representation.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you need help with your custody case. We'll work with you to understand your unique situation and help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your child.