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FATHERS’ RIGHTS
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This is about fathers' rights law, and protecting the best interests of your children. It provides information, news and comments on laws, cases and strategies for life as a single father and winning your custody, access or child support case.

Maryland Considers Joint Custody Presumption

House Bill 1132, if passed, would establish a presumption in favor of joint custody for children in Maryland.   The Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates is considering the bill, which would add the following as Section 9-109 to the Maryland Family Law Article:

IN AN INITIAL CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDING, WHETHER PENDENTE LITE OR PERMANENT, INVOLVING THE PARENTS OF A CHILD, THERE IS A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION THAT:

(1) JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD; AND

(2) PHYSICAL CUSTODY TO EACH PARENT FOR APPROXIMATELY EQUAL PERIODS OF TIME IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD.

Similar bills have failed before, but they are always hotly debated with strong advocates on either side.  I’m not sure it really makes that much difference in the end in litigation.  With or without the presumption, the judge still decides whether custody should be joint or sole with one parent or the other, based on what the judge thinks is in the best interest of the child.  In settlement negotiations, however, it might replace “every other weekend” as a starting position.

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3 Responses to “Maryland Considers Joint Custody Presumption”

  1. Antonia Tan Says:

    That being said, we should have taken them over outright rather than loaning/gi-ven them money. GW2 Gold

  2. JimW Says:

    I am just starting to wade into all of this, but I believe that the main intent of the presumption of joint custody is to reduce the extent to which the legal system rewards bad-faith gamesmanship. Today, for example, many lawyers seem to advise–as an initial tactic–one parent moving away and taking the child with her. This being no true emergency, and there being a presumption that a child only needs one parent–and that a child is best off having only one parent if the parents do not get along– the courts leave the child in that situation for awhile.

    Then, the fact that the child has been only seeing one parent for some time, becomes a major reason for awarding custody to the parent who efficiently cut off the other parent. This tendency is further re-inforced by a many other factors.

    Conversely, a presumption of joint custody would mean that during the litigation process, when custody has not yet been awareded. a child is not additionally stressed by suddenly losing one parent, and there would be greater limits placed on the parent who placed the custody battle above good parenting.

    So in the end, a presumption of joint custody should not make much difference on who gets custody if both parents are reasonable, the witnesses all tell the truth, the experts are all competent, both sides have good lawyers, and the judge is fair and paying attention. But if the system fails in some way, the presumption of joint custody will tend to mitigate the effects of extreme actions.

    Moreover, there is the question of what to do in close cases. Suppose the parents are terrible at communicating and negotiating with one another, but somehow still are able to each play an important role in the child’s life by (for example) each capitulating part of the time. For example, a level-headed father with a time-consuming job and a mother with a personality disorder and a part-time job. The presumption that a child should only have one parent means that custody will either be awarded to a father whose job prevents him from spending as much time as would be ideal, or a mother who will be caring but also abusive as the child gets older, without the stabilizing influence from her father.

    The presumption of joint custody, by contrast, would force the judge to first look at how the child was doing with both parents, and then evaluate whether he will be better off with only one or the other.

    It is ironic that in Maryland, the child-support formulas assume that the child should suffer no drop in wealth due to the divorces–even if that means that one parent must do so–but it does not assume that the child should suffer no drop in parental love. Many children would be better off with less money and more parents.

  3. James J. Gross Says:

    Jim: A perceptive analysis. One minor correction. There is no presumption either way in Maryland.

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