How Maryland Courts Resolve Cases Where Parents Cannot Communicate and Co-Parent in an Effective Way

A lot of parents may struggle with communication with their child’s other parent in the aftermath of the end of the parents’ relationship. It is always of paramount importance to make every possible effort to work together collaboratively with your child’s other parent when it comes to matters regarding the child. First and foremost, you should do that because it is generally what’s best for the child. Additionally, though, you should try to work with the other parent because if you go to court and tell the judge that absolutely cannot co-parent with the other parent, the judge is going to award one of you sole legal and physical custody–and it may not be you. For thoughtful advice about how to pursue your child custody case, be sure to talk to an experienced Maryland family law attorney.

As an example that illustrates the above point, there was the recent case of J.W. and A.J. The pair had a son together, born in April 2015. The parents were never married. Shortly after the boy turned two, the father asked a Baltimore judge to award him sole legal and physical custody of the child. The mother filed her own court papers, indicating that the child had resided with her his whole life and asking the judge to award her sole legal and physical custody. Just a few days later, the judge entered a temporary order that gave each parent joint legal and physical custody of the child, with exchanges to take place at a Baltimore police station.

Many parents, after a relationship’s end, struggle with high acrimony between them. These parents’ case was a somewhat extreme, however. Each parent took the witness stand in court and testified in the custody hearing that he/she could not communication or co-parent with the other in an effective way. At the hearing’s end, the judge considered the testimony of the father, the mother and the mother’s two witnesses and determined that the mother offered a more stable home environment and, as a result, should receive sole legal and physical custody.

The father appealed, but he lost. His argument before the appeals court was that the joint custody arrangement established by the temporary order was working, so the trial judge acted erroneously in creating a final order that altered that successful arrangement. Unfortunately for the father, his previous legal strategic decisions undercut this argument and doomed his appeals case to failure. The father at no point asked the trial judge to award joint legal and physical custody. Instead, the father requested only sole legal and physical custody.

In an equally if not more damaging move, the father testified on the witness stand that he could not co-parent with the mother. When both parents swear under oath that they cannot co-parent a child, then that leaves the court with two options: sole custody to the mother or sole custody to the father. A circumstance where the parents cannot co-parent effectively is almost always one where joint custody is not appropriate.

Once joint custody was eliminated as an option, all that remained was to choose the more beneficial home. The court concluded that, while sometimes unfair, the father’s criminal past had kept him from maintaining steady employment. Because the mother did have steady employment, that meant that the mother offered a more stable home with greater financial steadiness. This was what was in the child’s best interest and was a valid basis for granting the mother sole custody, the appeals court said in its ruling.

That left the father with neither physical nor legal custody. This example shows that the strategic decisions you make in your family law case can have significant and long-lasting effects. To make sure you are making the wisest choice, seek out knowledgeable counsel. Experienced Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been helping Maryland spouses and parents navigate the court systems for many years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Your Legal Options in Maryland If Your Child’s Other Parent Refuses to Cooperate as Part of Your Joint Custody Arrangement, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 28, 2018

Custody Evaluations and Their Impact on Maryland Child Custody Cases, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 15, 2018

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