When seeking sole legal and physical custody, there are several things that you need to show to the court. You must establish that such a custody order would be in the best interest of the children. Part of that “best interest’ analysis involves showing the judge that you have the ability — personally, financially and otherwise — to meet the children’s day-to-day needs. You don’t have to prove that yours is the perfect home, just that yours is the best home of the options available to the children. Providing this evidence and making the sort of arguments that will be persuasive in court are efforts that are often enhanced by having representation from an experienced Maryland family law attorney.
The case of L.R. demonstrated an example of the process in this state. L.R. was a father of two children born in El Salvador. According to the father, he, the mother, his parents and the children all lived together in El Salvador for a time, but the father moved to the United States in 2006, hoping to eventually move his children to this country and provide a better life for them here. In 2008, the mother allegedly moved from the father’s parents’ home and ceased being involved in the children’s lives.
In 2016, the children came to live with the father in Frederick and had been living with him for roughly one and one-half years when the father went to court. In his court action, the father sought an order granting him sole legal and physical custody of the two children, and a ruling that would allow the children to seek “Special Immigrant Juvenile” status from federal immigration authorities.
The trial judge ruled against the father on both his requests. The judge concluded that the father did not have the ability to meet the children’s educational needs, which is an essential component of meeting daily needs. The trial court noted that the children did poorly in school, with the daughter earning Ds and Fs, but that the father had not contacted any of the children’s teachers. The father, in fact, did not even know what classes they took, according to the court. Another essential part of daily needs is socialization, and the trial court concluded that the father was not capable of meeting the children’s daily needs with regard to socialization.
The Court of Special Appeals reversed this ruling, explaining that the analysis the trial court performed was incomplete. When a parent seeks sole custody of his children, Maryland law requires trial courts to look at each available option for the children and decide which one best meets their needs. In other words, the trial judge “is called upon to evaluate the child’s life chances in each of the homes competing for custody and then to predict with whom the child will be better off in the future.”
The trial judge in this father’s case failed to consider the “totality of the circumstances,” as the law requires. While giving the father sole custody might not be the perfect solution, the homes competing for custody were the father’s home in Maryland or the grandparents home in El Salvador where the children were allegedly under threat from violent and murderous gangs. When viewed in that light, the father’s home, while not the ideal option, potentially still represented the best option.
With any family law case, success often comes down to understanding what evidence you need and what arguments will carry persuasive weight with the court. For the knowledge and skill you need, contact experienced Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi for representation in your case. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Seeking — Or Opposing — A Long-Distance Relocation of Your Children to or from Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 29, 2018
Maryland Father Overcomes Great-Grandmother’s Effort to Obtain Court-Ordered Visitation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 13, 2018