There are two types of child custody in Maryland: physical custody and legal custody. A parent with physical custody is responsible for day-to-day decisions while the child is living with him; whereas a parent with legal custody makes long-term decisions regarding the child's education, religion, medical care and other major life issues. Although either parent may establish custody rights, drug addiction of a parent may be cause for a court to deny parental rights.
Factors Determining Custody
There is no automatic presumption of joint custody between parents under Maryland law. Rather, Maryland courts determine parental custody based on a myriad of factors, including the preference of the child, financial and employment status of the parent, impact on the child's schooling, and other considerations affecting the daily life of the child. As a parent's character, reputation and fitness are considered by the court when determining custody rights, a parent's addiction to illegal drugs may adversely affect her parental rights.
Best Interest of the Child
Maryland courts determine custody and visitation rights based on the best interest of the child. Therefore, when weighing the factors, the judge attempts to predict the future needs of the child and the parent's ability to meet those needs. If a parent has a substance abuse problem, the judge may take any drug abuse into great consideration when concluding whether he is fit to meet the needs of the child.
Maryland state law provides several ways in which a parent's drug abuse may come to the attention of the courts. If a child is born to a mother who is addicted to drugs, the hospital is obligated to report the substance abuse to state officials who may initiate proceedings restricting parental rights. A divorcing spouse may also raise the other parent's drug addiction when contesting child custody. If a parent is seeking sole custody due to allegations of substance abuse, she must be able to establish the other parent's drug use by a preponderance of the evidence.
Impact of Drug Abuse
Complete denial of parental rights is rare in Maryland even if sole custody is granted due to the other parent's substance abuse. The court may likely grant the noncustodial parent visitation rights, often with requirements for supervision and drug testing to ensure the safety of the child. As child custody arrangements may be altered if there is a change of circumstances, a parent who is initially denied custody rights may be granted rights in the future if he is able to show he no longer has a substance abuse issue.