Young Couple Parents are fighting in front of children.

When Should You Fight for Sole Custody?

patrickcrawford | August 28, 2019

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that the legal system generally favored mothers in custody disputes. The consensus was that children belong with their mothers. Over the years, courts have come to recognize that – except for in extreme situations – children fare best when they spend a considerable amount of time with both parents and when both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. 

The State of Maryland favors shared-custody arrangements, but there are situations in which Maryland courts recognize that sole custody – by one parent or the other – is in the best interests of the children. If you believe that your children’s ongoing safety, health, and well-being are best served by you having sole custody, consult with an experienced Annapolis child custody lawyer today. 

The Legal Standard

In the determination of custody, Maryland uniformly seeks to protect the best interests of the children involved. Generally, this means that both parents share both physical and legal custody – legal custody refers to who makes important decisions on behalf of the children, and physical custody refers to whom the children reside with at any given time. Children often live primarily with one parent (the custodial parent) and have a visitation schedule with the other. When determining custody arrangements, the court takes a variety of factors into consideration, including:

  1. Which parent is the primary caregiver
  2. Each parent’s physical and psychological capacity for providing childcare 
  3. Each parent’s character and reputation 
  4. Each parent’s ability to maintain important familial relationships in their children’s lives 
  5. Which parent can provide the children with the most meaningful opportunities
  6. Where each parent lives in relation to the children’s schools, friends, relatives, and more

This list can go on and on. Every custody case is as unique as the children and parents involved, and the judge will carefully consider those issues it deems relevant to the case at hand. Ultimately, the court will not grant one parent sole custody unless it has a compelling reason to do so.  

Sole Custody

There are situations in which the court determines that the children are better off when one parent has sole custody. This does not generally mean, however, that the other parent has no rights to visitation. Only in the direst of situations does one parent lose all such rights.  

When to Seek Sole Custody of Your Children

If you are concerned that shared custody is not in your kids’ best interests, it’s important to share these concerns with your dedicated Annapolis child custody lawyer. There are several situations in which the court is far more likely to consider awarding you sole custody of your children. These situations include:

  1. If your spouse has physically, emotionally, or sexually abused your children and/or you in the past, he or she represents an obvious danger to your children. The courts’ intention is always to protect children from harm.
  2. If your spouse has neglected your children in the past, the court will carefully consider whether he or she is likely to continue doing the same. Neglect is categorized as failing to provide children with the necessary care, including a healthy diet, appropriate clothing, adequate supervision, necessary medical, dental, and vision care, appropriate shelter, and other important safeguards.
  3. Drug and/or alcohol abuse can render a parent incapable of consistently providing the care children need. If your spouse is a substance abuser, the court may determine that he or she is not capable of sharing custody with you.
  4. Mental illness takes its toll on everyone, and it can affect a parent’s ability to adequately care for his or her children. If your spouse’s mental illness leads to unpredictable and/or irrational behavior, the court will carefully factor this into its determinations regarding custody.

If any of these circumstances apply in your custody case, fighting for sole custody is in order. Your primary concern is naturally your children’s ongoing health, happiness, and well-being. The fact is, however, that sharing custody with a parent who isn’t up to the task can endanger your children. If you believe that having sole custody is in your children’s best interests, it’s imperative that you present your strongest case to the court. 

Other Mitigating Factors

Your children’s ongoing safety is obviously paramount, but there are other concerns that can affect a judge’s decisions related to sole custody. While your divorcing spouse may never have abused or endangered your shared children, he or she may have dropped the parenting ball in other important ways. The fact is that – to be a reliable parent – you have to show up. 

If your child’s other parent is out of the picture, you may be inclined to leave well enough alone and not pursue sole custody. This isn’t, however, in you or your child’s best interests. Parents who disappear have a way of resurfacing, and if you haven’t been awarded sole custody when they do so, you’ll need to revisit the issue. This process is likely to be harrowing for both you and your child.

There are several circumstances that can incline the court to award sole custody, such as:

  1. If your children’s other parent has abandoned them, the court will take notice. The parental instinct is considered universal, and if your spouse left your shared kids behind, it sends a powerful message to the court. Obtaining sole custody after abandonment provides you with leverage if your ex ever decides to fight for custodial rights. 
  2. If your divorcing spouse plans on moving outside of the State of Maryland – or out of the country – you may be more comfortable seeking sole custody. Again, sole custody doesn’t mean your children can’t spend time with their other parent, but it can relieve some of the stress inherent to co-parenting from a distance
  3. If your children’s other parent is incarcerated, the situation is difficult enough. Having a parent who is imprisoned leaves children vulnerable to any number of negative effects. While the parent who is incarcerated can’t house you children or have regular visitation now, that doesn’t mean that he or she will not get out of jail and seek regular visitation. Sole custody can serve as an insurance policy against automatic parental rights. 

Children are vulnerable to their parents’ whims, inadequacies, faults, and everything else. If you believe that your divorcing spouse is likely to do more harm than good with shared custody, you owe it to your children and yourself to fight for sole custody.  

If You Have Reason to Seek Sole Custody, You Need an Experienced Annapolis Child Custody Lawyer on Your Side 

Child custody arrangements top the list of priorities in every divorce case that involves children. If you have reason to seek sole custody, custody arrangements are even more important. While children generally fare better when they spend ample time with both parents, this doesn’t necessarily hold true when one of those parents has proven himself or herself incapable of living up to the attendant responsibilities of good parenting.

If you’re fighting for sole custody, attorney Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford in Annapolis, Maryland, is here to help you. Mr. Crawford understands that every custody case is unique to its own set of circumstances and that seeking sole custody is sometimes the best path forward. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at (410) 216-7905 today.