In the past, Maryland couples often waited until marriage to start their families. Today, however, with the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, many couples are delaying marriage or even foregoing it altogether. Nonetheless, many of these couples are having children out of wedlock, which can lead to child custody disputes, should the relationship end. Although the mothers primarily received custody in the past, a growing number of fathers are actively seeking custody and want to understand their legal rights.
First of all, paternity needs to be established. When the man is unmarried, he can be considered the father if he is listed on the birth certificate, has provided a written statement acknowledging he is the father or has been ordered by the court to provide child support.