In Maryland, if a grandparent is seeking custody they are considered as a third party. In order for a grandparent to ask for custody, they must prove to the court that the parent or parents are unfit or they must demonstrate exceptional circumstances. In Maryland, a grandparent can also ask for custody if they are considered as a de facto parent.
A de facto parent is a non-biological parent who has been found by the court to meet the child’s physical and psychological needs on a daily basis. In order to determine whether a grandparent can seek custody as a de facto parent the court will look at the following factors:
- If the biological or adoptive parent has consented to the formation of a strong parent-like relationship between the child and grandparent.
- If the grandparent and the child lived together in the same household.
- Whether or not the grandparent took great responsibility of the child’s care, education, and development without expecting a financial reward in return.
- Or if the grandparent has established a parental role for a long amount of time, which has led to a parent like bonded and dependent relationship between the child and grandparent.
In the case that one party is a parent and the other party is a de facto parent, the court will decide custody solely based on the child’s best interests.
In Maryland, a grandparent can also gain custody under exceptional circumstances. When determining whether exceptional circumstances exist the court will look at the length the child has been away from his or her parent, the age of the child when a grandparent started caring for him or her, if there is a possibility the change in custody will emotionally affect the child and the period of time it took for the parent to reclaim the child. The court will also look at the nature and strength of the relationship between the grandparent and child, the intensity of the parents desire to have custody of the child and whether the child’s future will be stable and certain in the custody of the parent.
Another way in which a grandparent can gain custody of a child is if they prove the custodial parent is unfit. When determining whether a parent is unfit the court will look at if the parent has neglected the child by an inability to fulfil his or her parental duties, if the parent has abandoned the child or if there is sufficient evidence proving to the parent has inflicted physical or mental harm to the child or has allowed another person to do so, this includes physical, sexual or emotional harm. The court will also look at whether the parent is mentally or physically able to take care of the child, if the parent has abandoned his or her duties to care for the child or if the parent has engaged in any conduct which may harm the child’s welfare.
In Maryland, if the court finds exceptional circumstances, parental unfitness or a de facto parenthood, the court will still need to consider what’s in the best interest of the child. If it is within the child’s best interest for him or her to have a grandparent as a legal guardian then the court will rule so.
If you need a Maryland child custody lawyer to help you with your child custody case in Maryland, call us at 888-437-7747. Our Maryland child custody attorneys can help you.