Maryland divorce and family law cases involving child support or child custody matters most frequently boil down to the best interests of the child, within their family context. In practical terms, this most often means the mother in most states – over 80% of national cases reflect the majority opinion and experience of families that the mother is the primary care-giver and responsible for most direct day-to-day needs of (particularly younger) children. While a large majority of these family law and child custody disputes tend to get settled out of court, before litigation, those that do end up in litigation tend to be perceived as generally inclined towards favoring the mother’s roles and responsibilities delivered, vs. the father’s.
This is changing, and fast. For many reasons ranging from the general economy to much more diverse and accepted cohabitation arrangements among parents and caregivers, fathers (married or not) are more and more likely to seek greater custody share without bowing to commonly-held notions or procedures. As this child custody and family law article states, “You’ve seen more households that had two working parents, and if a parent was out of work, it happened to be the father, and he was therefore taking over more of the parenting duties…This has changed, in many ways, men’s relationships to their children, and that has been reflected in some of the growth of (family law) firms catering to men and fathers’ rights.”
A parent’s inability to pay child support, most often a responsibility of the father, also introduces additional pressure and perhaps some degree of unfairness for fathers seeking child custody. In Maryland, for example, this trend of “bad debt” piling up, unpaid by fathers who can’t reasonably provide to the degree that the mother or court specifies, has been recognized through the work of the Job Opportunities Task Force. As this Baltimore Maryland Sun family law op/ed piece states, “the (Maryland) Child Support Payment Incentive Program is already taking small steps to chip away at this mountain of bad debt. The program allows noncustodial parents with incomes below 225 percent of the federal poverty level, who have made 24 months of consecutive child-support payments on their current obligation, to have their arrears reduced to zero…Also, new legislation (2012) will automatically suspend child-support orders for anyone sentenced to 18 or more months in jail and lacking the financial means to pay…the new law will help noncustodial parents reenter the workforce — and the lives of their children.”
Furthermore, In July 2013, the Maryland Commission on Child Custody Decision Making was authorized. The Commission will study all aspects of child custody decision-making in Maryland, including the principles governing it, and current practice and processes. The study will encompass how to make child custody orders and modifications fairer, more uniform, and equitable; reduce litigation in child custody proceedings; promote and ensure children’s continued relationships with both parents; and maximize involvement of both parents in a child’s life…including considering whether gender discrimination exists in custody decisions.
Maryland Child Custody and Support Help – for Fathers, Mothers, all Caregivers
At BWG, a Montgomery County-based Maryland Divorce, Family Law and Personal Injury Law Firm, we recognize that child custody law and procedure varies greatly from state to state, and the landscape is shifting fast in response to perceived, actual or simply unintended inequities in rights stipulated among parents and caregivers in child custody situations. Maryland Family Law is drawn from the sources of the Maryland Code, Maryland Court Rules, and Maryland Case Law – all of which create a very complex system and context to navigate by the court, attorneys and the families involved.
Trying to interpret individual Maryland child custody laws without fully understanding the Maryland Family Law Court system and the constantly shifting landscape of new legislation and sources of input and authority, greatly decreases the chance of achieving an outcome favorable to you in your case – whether you’re a father or mother. That’s why it’s in your best interest to consult effective, knowledgeable Maryland child custody and support lawyers with current attorney experience in Maryland child custody, child support, divorce, domestic violence/abuse, and other related family law case types.