‘There is More to Parenting Than Being a Physical Presence’: Deciding Custody Time and Schedules in Maryland

You work hard to provide for your family. You also have a strong desire to be an active and involved parent in your child’s life. A recent case from Baltimore County looked at the conflict than can arise from these two things. Namely, the case looked at whether one parent should only have physical custody during periods of time when he wasn’t working. In order to foster your relationship with your child, it is important to have time with that child, including overnights. Sometimes, you may have to work during parts of those periods. That doesn’t mean that you should lose custody time. To achieve a custody arrangement that best promotes your relationship with your child, be sure to retain the services of an experienced Maryland child custody attorney.

As the court stated in this important victory for the father, the law doesn’t require that you either be off work or relinquish custody time. The law requires that a physical custody schedule promote the best interests of the child.

In the case, the dispute focused on the son of D.B. and N.W. The parents were never married and lived separately, but decided to raise the boy together. The father worked nights and the mother worked in the daytime. Eventually a dispute arose regarding the schedule and the parents ended up in court.

The father’s complaint asked the judge to award him three overnights per week. The father argued that, although he worked nights on some of those days, he could arrange for his brother or mother to watch the boy until he came home from work and then he could tend to the child once the boy awoke in the morning. This, he argued, would help the boy “get accustomed to his home and get to know” the father’s “side of the family.”

The trial judge decided to grant the schedule that the father requested. The mother filed an appeal where she argued that, by giving the father custody during hours when he was working and the mother was not, the trial judge had awarded “de facto visitation and access” to the paternal grandmother and paternal uncle over her opposition, which meant that the court had improperly valued “the rights of third parties over a natural parent.”

This argument the mother advanced in her appeal did not succeed because it was legally incorrect. Simply because you, as a parent, have family members supervise your child during hours when you have custody but are working, that does not mean that the family members doing the babysitting have been awarded visitation rights. The child remains in your custody during those hours, and also remains your responsibility during those hours.

A schedule that would ‘foster… relationships’ was in the child’s best interests

The thing that a trial court has to decide in situations like this is “what is in the best interests of the child?” In this case, the judge decided that overnights with the father were in the boy’s best interests, even if that meant that a relative had to watch the child for several hours. (As the court noted in making this assessment, most of the hours in which the uncle or grandmother would watch the child were hours after the boy’s bedtime.) The overnights with the father would help the child become acclimated to being in the father’s home and “foster his relationships” with many of the child’s close relatives on the paternal side.

Having rejected the mother’s appeal on the issues of physical custody, the court made a pronouncement that is useful for any parent in a custody dispute in Maryland to keep in mind. The court stated that “there is more to parenting than being a physical presence in a child’s life. For example, decisions about who the child spends time with, which TV shows, if any, the child watches, and which books are read to him are all part of parenting a child.” A parent “does not need to be with [the child] every minute or hour in order to properly and effectively parent him.”

Growing your relationship with your child is undoubtedly extremely important to you. That means having time with that child. To ensure you’re getting a custody schedule that helps you truly foster your parent-child relationship, talk to experienced child custody attorney Anthony A. Fatemi for the reliable advice and advocacy you need. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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