maternal custody rights - maryland family law attorney

As a mother, it can be tough to understand your maternal custody rights in the state of Maryland. At the Law Offices of Corrie Boulay our primary focus is helping you and your children through an already painful and unsettling time. 

If you were married when you gave birth to the child, your spouse at the time is assumed to be the biological father of the child. In this case, both you and the father are “joint natural guardians” of the child. But, if you gave birth outside of a marriage, you are still considered the “natural guardian” of the child, while the biological father has to establish his paternity. As a “joint natural guardian” you equally share in the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, but as a single “natural guardian” you alone have the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, until paternity is established. Paternity can be established by the presumed biological father signing an “Affidavit of Paternity” voluntarily or by DNA testing ordered by the Court. 

It is important for mothers to know that despite their legal status as “natural guardian” whether or not they are married, they are not guaranteed “maternal preference.” In the past, the Courts recognized maternal custody rights as superior to paternal rights. This is no longer the case, however, as Courts have abolished “maternal preference” and now see no parent’s rights as superior to the other. 

Now, whether or not you have “joint natural guardianship” or sole “natural guardianship, the Court’s decision in any custody case is always based on and weighed with the “child’s best interest” in mind. The Court does hope to protect the rights and privileges of parents involved, but all decisions must be in the “child’s best interest”. 

In the scenario in which you are married or where paternity has been established, you and the father of the child have equal claim to the physical and legal custody of the minor child. This right, as “joint natural guardians”, includes “decision making power”, access to child’s records, traveling out-of-state with the minor child, and aid from the Court should either party attempt to deny the other visitation or access. These rights as legal guardians are always subject to the “child’s best interest”. So, your ability to exercise these maternal custody rights is dependent on the Court finding that it is in the “best interest of the child” for you to do so. 

If you are the sole “natural guardian” of the child from abandonment, death, or inability of the father, you alone have parental claim to the physical and legal custody of the minor child. However, your claim is still subject to the “child’s best interest” and can be challenged by other invested parties (such as grandparents, aunts, etc.). Still, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, the Court is likely to rule with the natural parents. So, provided you can be proven to be in the “best interest of the child”, your claim as a mother and natural guardian is valid. 

We hope this information will help you and your child/children through this difficult time. We understand how painful custody cases can be, and we want you to know that we are here for any legal assistance you may need at (410) 268-2488. 

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