Third-party custody is a fast-growing area in Maryland law. It has experienced many changes since 2016. One of the reasons for this is that more grandparents are playing a significant role in raising their grandkids, whether by choice or necessity. For example, when parents divorce, become unfit to care for their children, or die, a grandparent may take over.
In such a case, grandparents may initiate a custody action. However, it may not always be a smooth process, especially if one of the parents raises a dispute. In that case, filing for a court-ordered visitation can be the next best option. To enhance the chances of a favorable outcome, it would help to seek the services of a Germantown law firm.
What Are Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Maryland?
The Maryland Family Law Section 9-102, governs grandparent rights. It stipulates that an equity court may:
- Evaluate a petition for reasonable grandchild visitation by a grandparent and
- Grant the rights to the grandparent if it finds that doing so is in the best interests of the child.
The Case That Set a New Precedence
In 2016, the Maryland Court of appeals examined the context of grandparent custody in the case of parental unfitness. The issue opened an avenue for courts to determine if grandparents can intervene in Maryland custody cases.
The specifics of the case entailed:
- A child in a complicated living arrangement with the parents being in a relationship with another person
- All parties involved were using illegal drugs
- The child’s parents filed for divorce
- The child’s father was violent
- The mother tested positive for the divorce-mandated drug testing
The grandparents filed a request to intervene, arguing that given the circumstances surrounding the child’s life, they should be granted custody. While the trial court agreed to the request, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on procedural grounds, granting the grandparents the right to intervene permissively.
What is Required to Prove Grandparent Intervention is Appropriate?
In addition to a child being in dangerous living conditions, the grandparents must also be able to show that:
- They are significantly involved in the child’s life emotionally and financially
- There is parental neglect or abandonment
- The parents inflicted mental or physical injury to the child
- The parent suffers from ongoing mental or physical incapacity that inhibits them from caring for the child
- The parents renounced their care and provision for the child.
There’s also a need to prove the importance of intervention by the grandparents. Proving all this can be complex, and that’s why it would be helpful to engage the services of Germantown child custody lawyers to create a solid case to prove why you deserve to be granted grandparent custody or visitation rights.
What “Exceptional Circumstances” Do Maryland Judges Consider When Granting Grandparents’ Rights?
The most crucial factor that plays a role when courts are granting visitation rights to grandparents is the best interests of the child.
The court will also look at other factors like:
- The past and ongoing relationship between the child and the grandparents
- How safe and stable the parent’s home is for the child
- The parent’s willingness and sincere readiness to get back custody of the child
- The impact of the grandparents’ visitation on the child, both positive and negative
- How the visitation will affect the child’s educational and physical activities
- The emotional and physical health of all the parties involved
A renowned family law firm in Germanton, MD, can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your grandchild’s life. They can help you prove to the court why you deserve to be granted grandparents’ rights in Maryland.
Parental Unfitness and Exceptional Circumstances
If you disagree with your grandchild’s parents about their parenting style or decisions, that’s no ground for the court to judge the parents as unfit. Instead, these are the factors courts evaluate in determining if a parent may be unfit:
- Harmful parental behavior that adversely affects the child’s welfare
- The inability of the parents to care for the child, for example, due to mental illness
- Subjecting the child to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
- Neglecting or abusing the child
If the outcome of the assessment of the situation allows it, the court will grant custody or visitation rights to the grandparents. However, sometimes a court will leave the decision about the child’s best interest in the parents’ hands.
Child custody lawyers serving Montgomery County and Maryland can aggressively fight to protect your rights as a grandparent. They can compile evidence and vigorously argue your case to prove that your grandchild is better off living with you.
Can I Get Special Adoption Rights in Maryland as the Child’s Grandparent?
Strict procedural and legal requirements are involved as the court determines whether to grant grandparents adoption rights. However, some circumstances allow a court to make a grandparent the legal guardian or adoptive parent through the Maryland court system.
As an adoptive parent, you acquire all parental rights, while as a guardian, you get the legal authority to decide on all matters regarding the child’s healthcare and education. However, the rights aren’t absolute and can end if specific circumstances arise.
You would be in a better position to petition the court for guardianship or adoption if you have child custody attorneys in Montgomery County to help you with the process. They can use their experience in third-party custody cases to prove that you can and are willing to protect your grandchild’s future.
An Experienced Attorney Helping Grandparents Facing Maryland Custody Cases
It can be stressful and distressing to step into your grandchild’s life and take care of them because their parents have failed in their parenting responsibility. However, since you want the best for your child, you need to fight for custody or visitation rights through the court.
Child custody lawyers in Germantown can provide the legal presentation you need and help you fight for a favorable outcome. Our law firm is dedicated to assisting clients in child custody cases and other matters. We understand how physically and emotionally draining the process can be, and want to support you through it all. Contact us for a FREE case evaluation.