In Maryland, in the case of the parents not being married then the mother has sole legal and physical custody of the child, until the father can prove he is, in fact, the father. When it comes to child custody the same laws that apply to divorcing guardian apply to unmarried parents. The only difference is that if the father wishes to get guardianship and visitation rights he must establish paternity to the court. The law doesn’t favour a certain guardian over another and both have an equal chance of gaining custody.
Legal custody refers to a court order which gives either the mother or father physical custody and control of the minor. The guardian who has legal custody is given the right to control where the minor lives, the minor’s schooling and most other decisions regarding the minor. Depending on the best interest of the minor the judiciary might grant sole custody to one guardian, for example, the mother or joint custody to both parents. Regardless of who has guardianship, the court will order payments of juvenile maintenance to make sure that both parents are financially assisting the minor’s upbringing.
An unwed father must need to establish paternity and the mother must show to the court that she was the one that gave birth to the child. Establishing paternity is important in ensuring that both parents spend time with the child and if the unwed mother is granted sole custody then it can be useful to her financially as the father will be ordered to pay juvenile maintenance.
Before the court orders a guardianship and visitation schedule, the father will have to establish paternity. In Maryland, this is done in two ways; through an Affidavit of Parentage form or through a court order. This form is completed by the father and both parents must sign it. If the father refuses to sign an Affidavit of Parentage form it does not mean he is relieved of his duties to financially support the child. The court may order the father to take a DNA test to establish paternity.
Once paternity is established, the mother will no longer be considered as the primary caregiver and there is an equal chance that both parents can gain guardianship of the child. The court will look at the child’s best interests when awarding guardianship. If giving sole custody to the mother is within the child’s best interest then the court will award guardianship to the mother and vice versa. In Maryland, when awarding guardianship the court will look at the mental and/or physical health of both parents and the minor, each parent’s lifestyle, each parent’s ability to provide food, clothing and shelter and the emotional bond between both parents and the minor. Most importantly the court will take into account the willingness of each parent to care of the minor. In some cases depending on the maturity and age of the child the court will take into consideration the child’s preference all before coming to an agreement on guardianship and visitation.
If you need a Maryland minor guardianship lawyer to help you with your child custody case in Maryland, call us at 888-437-7747. Our Maryland child custody attorneys can help you. C