Legal Question in Family Law in Maryland

Chances of Mom Losing Full Custody

My unwed girlfriend has full phys custdy & joint legal custody of her 5 yr old son. The father is threatening to file for joint phys custody if she continues to date me. Is that something that will be granted? Is it that simple for him to keep her under control and meddle in her life by holding this over her head so that she complies with his wishes? They have visitation set up so that the father has him every other weekend. She thinks that because he has a bigger house and makes more money that a judge will grant joint custody automatically. How does this scenario really play out. Is joint custody a right and his for the asking, or would there have to be a really good reasong to change the full custody order? Such as; the mother is unfit, neglecting the children, her boyfriend is an ex-con, etc? None of these are the case. She takes great care of the children. I am educated, have an excellent job, and have never been in trouble with the law. Can you give me some insite on what she can do to protect herself if anything at all?

Asked on 10/07/07, 1:35 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Raquel S. White Law Office of Raquel S. White, LLC

Re: Chances of Mom Losing Full Custody

Unfortunely, he is allowed to file for a modification of custody anytime he wants. However, the standard that court uses to make a decision will be the "best interest of the child." The court will not modify custody unless it is found to be in the best interest of the child to do so. In my humble opinion (based on the facts that you have presented), there is no reason to modify the current custody arrangement.

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Answered on 10/08/07, 11:23 am
Thomas Brown Law Office of Thomas K. Brown, LLC

Re: Chances of Mom Losing Full Custody

Unfortunately, any idiot can march into court and file an action, and you'll have to defend, even if it's bogus. There are serious penalties for a lawyer knowingly abusing the legal system to badger and harass someone else, and lawyers need to engage in due diligence before commencing any action. If the father alleges facts that are unsupported, he may have trouble finding a lawyer to help him out. Of course, nothing's stopping him from bringing the case himself.

Anyway, as it relates to modifying the existing custody order, courts are unlikely to do this where there hasn't been some significant change in circumstances relating to the child. The "best interests of the child" standard applies to modifications as well as the original order. Stability in custody is generally seen as in the child's best interests, so modifying custody isn't taken lightly. If he can't prove anything has changed, the custody order likely will remain as is.

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Answered on 10/07/07, 3:02 pm

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