When couples with children initiate the process of dissolving their marriage, one of the largest issues that must be resolved is child custody. When the divorcing parents and their advocates cannot come to a settlement on their own, the court may determine the details regarding custody of the children, either awarding one parent with sole custody or both parents with joint custody.
When a couple with a child divorces, custody of the child may be given to one parent or shared between the two. In some cases, this is determined by an arrangement between the parents, but if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will step in and decide. According to Maryland law, no preference is given to the gender of the parent, and child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child.
Some Maryland grandparents are joining a growing trend throughout the country in which grandparents are raising their grandchildren. When children are unable to live with their biological parents, courts now make an effort to place them with someone they know. Ideally, this is a family member. Children raised by their grandparents may be brought up with values similar to those of their parents, and this can contribute to a sense of stability. Whether grandparents step in due to death, mental illness, incarceration or for some other reason, going to live with them may be less disruptive for children than other solutions.
Many Maryland residents might assume mothers usually get custody of the children in the aftermath of a divorce. Historically, this has generally been the case. But in recent decades, this trend has been changing. Joint custody and shared custody agreements are now becoming much more common when marriages end.
Despite a growing body of research about the value of same-sex parents, a recent study from Drexel University points out that judges may not be familiar with these projects. This puts Maryland same-sex couples at risk of facing bias in their child custody disputes.
Maryland residents may have seen the national news regarding two fathers who recently returned to California with their abducted children. Their two sons had been kept in Europe by the boys' mother more than 18 months prior. The mother, a 32-year-old Slovakian woman with legal U.S. residency, had previously shared child custody of her 10-year-old son with his father, a former president of Hollywood Records. The woman also shared custody over her 4-year-old son with his father, a voiceover agent residing in Beverly Hills.
According to the State Department, between 2008 and 2012, 7,000 children were taken out of the country by a parent and not returned. This leaves the remaining parent behind, trying to regain parental rights from foreign entities who have no incentive to assist them. Maryland parents who have been 'left behind" may be interested in a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith that would require the president to take action in cases where countries do not cooperate in resolving abduction cases. The bill would also require the State Department to provide statistics and obtain agreements with countries not bound by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Maryland parents may have read about a father in Texas who was in danger of losing his parental rights to his baby girl because he was believed to be a child abuser. Several doctors saw X-rays that revealed multiple fractures and ruled the fractures as not being caused by an accidental injury, casting suspicion onto the father. As a result, he was unable to exercise even his visitation rights without court-appointed supervision.
Maryland residents interested in rights for same-sex couples and unmarried parents may be interested in the outcome of a case involving two women and their child who was born after one woman donated an egg to the other who carried it to term. Two years after the child was born, the couple broke up, and the woman who gave birth left the country and took the child with her. When the biological mother was able to locate the birth mother and child, she took the woman to court for custody.
Maryland residents may have heard that Usher's ex-wife took the music mogul back to court at the beginning of August to seek an emergency modification to their child custody order. The woman claimed that Usher does not keep her informed of who is watching their children or what has happened with them. The request was filed after the couple's 5-year-old son suffered an accident at a swimming pool. He was being watched by an aunt at the time.