The State of Maryland has a general presumption that a minor child’s welfare is best served in the care and custody of their natural or adoptive parents. The court further presumes that a child’s parents are in the best position to determine who has access to and is entitled to visitation with their minor children.
For a grandparent or any other non-custodial party to obtain custody and/or visitation against the will of the natural parent, there must be a showing of an exceptional circumstance (i.e., that no visitation or custody by the grandparent or third party has or will result in harm to the minor child) or a finding of unfitness. The third party must overcome this presumption through a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. that it is more likely than not that the parent is unfit and or that exceptional circumstances exist).
After the Standard Has Been Met: Next Steps
After a court finds that exceptional circumstances exist and/or that the natural parent is unfit to make determinations about who has access to the minor child, the court reviews a host of factors that, together, are known as the “best interest of the child” standard. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- fitness of each parent;
- child’s primary caregiver;
- character and reputation of the natural parent;
- desire of natural parents;
- maintenance of family relations;
- child’s preference (if at least 10 years old but can be younger depending on the judge’s determination);
- environment of the home;
- parenting abilities;
- age, health, and gender of the child;
- school status;
- length of separation; and
- special needs and disability of the child
Natural Parent’s Custodial Rights
Even after a third party or grandparent has been awarded custody and/or visitation, a natural parent’s custodial rights are not terminated and the parent is not precluded from seeking custody at a later time. A natural parent can also be awarded the right to visit and communicate with the child as apart of the third party’s custody award.
There are several factors and requirements that must be met in order for a third party or grandparent custody/visitation determination to be made. If you are a third party or a grandparent seeking custody and/or visitation of a minor child, you need an attorney who will advocate on your behalf and ensure that you meet the requirements. Contact Angel Murphy with The Murphy Law Firm, LLC today to schedule your free criminal consultation at (240) 493-9116 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are active on social media, Like us on Facebook @AMurphyLegal, Follow us on Instagram @AMurphyLegal, and Twitter @AMurphy_LegalTags: Grandparent Custody, Grandparent Custody Rights, Third-Party Custody