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Maryland divorce: What constitutes unfit parenting?

Making the decision to divorce may be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. It's common for such a decision to spark many lifestyle changes and challenges, especially regarding your children, if you're a parent. Many issues stem from child-related matters, such as those involving finances, selling or keeping your Maryland home, school issues, custody and other topics. If you're one of many parents who believe you should have sole custody of your kids, the court will expect you to have good reason.

If your ex is an unfit parent, you'll need to show evidence of this to convince a judge or jury that your kids are better off in your care only. Past marital problems are not necessarily relevant material as far as proving a parent unfit. The judge is likely not interested in the fact that your spouse never cleaned up after himself or herself, or never appreciated you. Such issues may indeed have been factors toward divorce but don't necessarily mean your ex shouldn't share custody.

Unfit parenting issues

If you're trying to win sole custody of your children, the issues included in the following list may help clarify what types of situations tend to prompt family law judges to rule that a particular parent is unfit:

  • If you can prove that your co-parent's lifestyle would not be healthy for your kids, it may help you obtain a favorable outcome in court. It also helps to show that you encourage eating, activity and sleeping habits in your household that are conducive to a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle for children.
  • Children need structure and routine, especially when coping with their parents' divorce. If your ex hosts a lot of parties or leaves the kids home alone all the time to fend for themselves regarding meals, bedtime routines, etc., it is definitely an issue that most judges would want to consider when making custody decisions.
  • Abuse is never acceptable. If you have evidence that your ex is abusive toward your children, it is a matter of high priority that one should bring to the court's immediate attention.
  • Does your ex have a substance abuse problem? This is a common element in custody cases where judges hand down unfit parenting rulings.

Sometimes, a judge will rule a parent unfit but will also order him or her to do certain things to earn the opportunity to regain his or her custody privileges. For instance, if a parent enters rehabilitation for a substance abuse problem and meets all requirements toward recovery, at some point, the judge may allow supervised visitation or even shared custody.

Your children's best interests are the priority

Parents who believe their former spouses' presence is a detriment to their children's emotional or physical health can seek sole physical or legal custody of their kids, as warranted. The Maryland family law court system always has children's best interests in mind when making child custody decisions.

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