When it comes to a child custody disputes and other matters of family law, historically, mothers have had the upper hand. Unfortunately, it is still often wrongly assumed that the mother of a child is the best choice when custody can only be awarded to one parent. Although Maryland law states that both parents have the right to a relationship with their child, mothers frequently prevail in court decisions. When fathers are not the custodial parent, they may lose out on precious time spent with their children and the ability to participate in important parenting decisions.Concerns Affecting Maryland FathersSome of the issues facing fathers going through a divorce include:False claims of abuse – When domestic abuse claims surface, the assumption is often that a man has abused his wife. This could be patently untrue and hard for the man to disprove, or it could be that he is actually the victim of domestic violence.Limited visitation access and interference with parenting time – Many studies show that shared parenting can be greatly beneficial for children whose parents are divorced. Yet many fathers have trouble gaining access to their children during and after a divorce. Their ex can also attempt to prevent visits from taking place and restrict communication between children and their fathers.Large alimony awards or shouldering most of the child support burden – A common complaint of fathers who provide financial support but do not have custody of their children is that they bear a financial burden, but are limited in the time they get to spend with their children and are therefore often excluded from important parenting decisions.Little or no time off for family leave – Even when family and medical leave is available to fathers, they often do not take advantage of it due to the stigma or fear of retaliation.No rights concerning family planning – Many fathers who are not married to the mother of their child fear that the pregnancy could be terminated without their knowledge or consent.Establishing PaternityMaryland state law automatically assumes that a child of a married couple belongs to the mother and her husband. For unmarried couples, paternity must be established, and this is crucial to protecting a father’s rights. This ensures that the biological father is also the legal father of the child. This can be done in one of two ways in Maryland. One is by both parents agreeing to sign an Affidavit of Paternity. This is a relatively simple process that sometimes takes place at the birth of the child and must be done in front of a witness. The other choice is to bring a paternity action in court. If necessary, the judge can order genetic testing to determine the biological paternity of a child and legal responsibility.Establishing paternity enables unmarried men in Maryland to defend and protect their rights as parents.