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Custody/Visitation/3rd Party Visitation


Paternity (Parentage)

  • If the mother is married at the time of the birth, her husband is presumed to be the legal father of the child. The husband or another person can challenge paternity, which would be very difficult and speaking with an attorney is advised.

  • Establishing paternity is required for unmarried persons to obtain:

    • Child custody

    • Visitation

    • Child support

  • Paternity may be established by the following:

    • Affidavit of Parentage

      • When the child is born and in the hospital a father can sign an Affidavit of Parentage and place his name on the Birth Certificate

      • Once signed the Affidavit of Parentage becomes a legal finding.

      • Within 60 days, the father can rescind the Affidavit of Parentage.

      • After 60 days, the father must obtain a court order to rescind the Affidavit of Parentage.

    • Courts

      • The father can attest to paternity before the court in a proceeding for custody, visitation or child support

      • If the alleged person denies paternity, a court may order a paternity test (costs may fall on the plaintiff, but court will make the determination)

    • Local Child Support Agencies

      • If only seeking child support with no outstanding family law case, a local child support agency can assist in establishing paternity and payment for the paternity test.​

Jurisdiction—Where should a parent file for custody/visitation?

  • Jurisdiction and be very complicated and an attorney should be consulted.

  • Initial court filing—if a circuit court (venue) has jurisdiction for the initial custody matter, the specific circuit court typically maintains jurisdiction over the case as long as the children or parent resides in Maryland.

Emergency Custody filing—a Maryland court has jurisdiction to issue temporary relief on emergency grounds, if ..

  • The children in the state have been abandoned or

  • There are emergency circumstances that require the court to take action to protect the children, a sibling or a parent from actual or the threat of mistreatment or abuse

Child Custody

  • Type of Custody

    • Legal Custody—Decision Making Authority

      • Decides on a long range of decisions involving education, religion, discipline, medical care and child’s welfare.

      • Sole/Joint/Joint with tie-breaker authority.

    • Physical Custody—Parenting Time

      • Custodial/non-custodial

      • Sole(primary)/Joint(shared)

      • 92 overnights are needed to establish shared physical custody

    • Visitation

      • Non-custodial parents seek access or visitation

      • 3rd party visitation if:

        • The children’s parents are unfit and extraordinary circumstances or

        • His/her status as a de facto parent

De Facto Parent—rights to visitation

  • Requirements to establish de facto parent standing:

    • The biological/adoptive parent consented to and fostered the relationship between the children and the de facto parent

    • The de facto parent and children lived in the same household

    • The de facto parent performed significant duties with respect to care, education, development and monetary support, and

    • The de facto parent has been in a parenting role long enough to have bonded and established a parental relationship with the children.

“Best Interests of the Child” Standard in Custody Disputes

  • Custody disputes are fact specific.

  • In hearing testimony and reviewing evidence involving custody disputes, the following factors are included, but are not limited to:

    • The fitness of the parents

    • The character and reputation of the parents

    • The request of each parent

    • Any agreements between the parties

    • Willingness of each parent to share custody

    • Each parent’s ability to maintain the child’s relationship with others that are in the child’s best interest

    • The age and number of children each parent has in the household

    • The preference of the child, who is of sufficient age to form a rational judgment

    • The capacity of the parents to communicate and to reach shared decision affecting the child’s welfare

    • The geographic proximity of the parents’ residence and opportunities for time with each parent

    • The ability of each parent to maintain a stable and appropriate home for the child

    • Financial status of each parent

    • The demands of parental employment and opportunities for time with the child

    • The age, health, and sex of the child

    • The relationship established between the child and each parent

    • The length of separation of the parents

    • Whether there was a prior voluntary abandonment and surrender of custody of the child

    • The potential disruption of the child’s social and school life

    • Any impact on state or federal assistance

    • The benefit a parent may receive from an award of joint physical custody, and how that will enable the parent to bestow more benefit upon the child

    • Any other consideration the court determines is relevant to the best interest of the child

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