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McDermott v. Dougherty

Court of Appeals of Maryland
869 A.2d 751 (Md. 2005)


Charles McDermott (plaintiff) and Laura Dougherty were married and had a son named Patrick. McDermott and Laura divorced soon after Patrick’s birth. McDermott was a merchant marine, which required him to be at sea and away from Patrick for extended periods of time. During these times, Patrick lived with Hugh and Marjorie Dougherty (the Doughertys) (defendants), Laura’s parents. Laura, who initially had physical custody of Patrick, had been in jail and was later deemed unfit to have custody of Patrick. Laura had signed a power of attorney allowing Patrick to live with the Doughertys. McDermott filed a petition for legal and physical custody of Patrick. The Doughertys opposed the petition. The trial court found McDermott to be a fit parent. However, the trial court also found that McDermott’s absences as a result of his job constituted exceptional circumstances harmful to Patrick that overcame McDermott’s constitutional parental right. The trial court thus awarded the Doughertys sole legal custody of Patrick. The court of special appeals affirmed, and the intermediate appellate court denied McDermott’s appeal. The Court of Appeals of Maryland granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cathell, J.)

Concurrence (Wilner, J.)

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