Typically, family courts allow both parents to have legal custody or the authority to decide on the important aspects of their child’s life, like education, religion and medical care. Notably, Maryland does not presume in favor of joint custody. The courts base their decisions on what is best for the child’s well-being. Sometimes, the best option is to have one parent have sole legal custody – meaning the other parent has no decision-making power. And there are factors that may push a court to favor sole custody over joint legal custody.
Neglect and abuse
If a parent has a history of neglecting their child and shows no signs of improvement, the courts may presume the possibility that the neglect will continue in the future. The same applies to any history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. And if there is history of neglect or abuse, it will cast doubt as to whether any decision the parent makes is in the child’s best interests.
Courts are likely to find parents who have unstable mental health due to mental disability or substance abuse unfit to receive legal custody. While it does not apply to all cases, parents who suffer from mental illnesses may not be in the right headspace to make decisions for their children. The same goes for parents who abuse alcohol or drugs, since these substances can alter the mental state of their users.
If one of the parents is in prison, they cannot see the conditions surrounding the child’s life as well as their child’s needs. Therefore, they may be unable to make the appropriate decisions for their children.
These are some of the factors that may drive courts to issue sole legal custody to the other parent, who should also be fit and able to care for the child. It is important to note that proper evidence should back up these factors. And whoever raises these claims to court has the burden to prove the same.