ROCKVILLE, Maryland. In most cases, the courts favor custody arrangements in which both parents have time with the children. A parent who wants to limit a child’s contact with the other parent could face an uphill battle in the courts. Yet, in a child custody battle, the courts tend to award primary physical custody to the parent the courts deem the most fit. If you believe your spouse might be an unfit parent because of past abuse or violence, you may have important rights under the law should your child custody case go to trial or pre-trial settlement.

Under Maryland law, there are procedures in place to protect the best interests of the child and parents in a contested child custody case. In a contested child custody case, the parents may be required to attend a co-parenting course. Each parent and the children may be interviewed by an evaluator who will try to determine which custody situation would be in the best interests of the child. In some cases, the parents will be referred to a mediator to try to help them resolve their differences outside of court.

Yet, in most cases, it is in the children’s best interests and the parent’s best interest to reach a child custody settlement outside of court. Taking a child custody case to court can have serious consequences. A judge will not know your children nor their needs as well as you will. Yet, a judge will still be called upon to make a decision about custody that will be binding. In some cases, when parents bring their custody case before a judge, the judge makes a decision neither parent wants. So, unless you need to protect your child’s safety from a potentially abusive or violent parent, it is often in your best interests and your child’s best interest to negotiate a child custody settlement outside of court, with the help of mediation and with the guidance of your child custody lawyer. Barkley & Kennedy are family lawyers in Rockville, Maryland who work with families facing some of the tough questions that can arise during child custody disputes.

Are there times where a court will find a parent unfit? If a parent undergoes a mental health evaluation that determines that he or she cannot provide for the children’s well-being, the court may find the parent unfit. However, this process has come under fire by disability rights advocates. Many individuals with mental and physical disabilities, with proper support and help, can care for their children. According to the American Bar, some disabled parents have faced challenges from their former spouses regarding their ability to care for their children. Research indicates that there may be as many as 4.1 million parents with disabilities. Parents with disabilities may be among the only group in the U.S. that has to fight to retain or regain custody of their children, according to the American Bar. In fact, in many states, during a custody battle, the non-disabled parent can sometimes use the other parent’s disability against them when seeking custody. Parents with disabilities face unique challenges and run a greater risk of being deemed unfit. If you are concerned about this, you may want to speak to a qualified family law attorney, like Barkley & Kennedy in Rockville, Maryland. In the U.S., disability can cover a range of conditions, from physical disabilities to emotional disabilities like depression. The key is being able to show the courts and the judge that you have taken steps to get support from disability services. Parents who seek accommodations under ADA may also be more likely to show that they are taking steps to be fit parents. Parents who do not receive custody of their children can also appeal their case as an ADA complaint to a federal court. However, these cases can be complex and involved, so having a family lawyer on your side can make a big difference.

For parents who fear for the safety of their children due to a violent or abusive parent, supervised visitation or monitored exchange may be an option. It is important to have court records of restraining orders or other records of abuse when seeking sole custody due to physical or emotional violence. A parent with known drug abuse issues may also be deemed unfit by the court, but sufficient evidence must be provided.

Child custody cases are complex and can be emotionally fraught. At the end of the day, families should work to find a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the children. It is important to get your child custody arrangement right the first time. It can be very difficult to change a custody order once it has been approved by a judge. If you have questions or concerns about your child custody situation, reach out to a family lawyer today.