Sixteen years after Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), grandparent visitation is alive and well in Maryland. In Troxel, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted, “The demographic changes of the past century makes it difficult to speak of an average American family. The composition of families varies greatly from household to household.” Indeed, the last 16 years have only enhanced this sentiment. Given continued high levels of divorce and out-of-wedlock births, the role of grandparents (or other family members) continues to be an important source of stability in some families.
Maryland law is still trying to adapt to the decision in Troxel, while still upholding a parent’s right to raise their child without interference of the State, and ensuring that a child’s best interest is being met.
Under current law, unless a third party (family member or otherwise) is able to prove that a biological or adopted parent is unfit or exceptional circumstances have occurred that warrant the court to consider whether the non-biological/adopted third-party should have any contact with the minor children. I have unfortunately witnessed several cases where although it was evident that the minor child desperately need to have the non-biological/adopted third-party in their lives, even if it was just for a few hours one day a month, these non-biological/adopted third-party cases were unsuccessful solely because the biological/adopted parents objected to the third-party having any access to the minor children. The majority of the time without any true basis for their reasoning why the non-biological/adopted third-party should have no access. This has prevented the courts from being able to truly look out for what is in the best interest of a minor child.
Amending this law to provide a little more initial thought into the effect on the child would provide the court the ability to allow the non-biological/adopted third-party to have some type of contact with a minor child that they otherwise would not be allowed to see, not because the minor child does not want to, but solely because of their parents’ decision to not allow them to see the non-biological/adopted third-party.
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