Grandparents Rights

After a major family change that affects which parent a child lives with—such as a divorce or legal separation—grandparents can end up being left out of the picture. A parent with child custody might try to keep a child from seeing their grandparents. This can be damaging to the child, especially if the grandparent had regular visits with the child. This type of situation can also be very painful for the grandparent. It is important for grandparents in Maryland to know that the state grants them certain rights when it comes to visiting their grandchildren after a divorce or separation.

If you are currently dealing with this type of situation, it is important for you to seek legal counsel so you can ensure that your rights are being fully protected. The Koslow Law Firm is able to help individuals who are dealing with grandparents’ rights issues.

Importance of Obtaining Strong Legal Representation

When you are dealing with grandparents’ visitation rights, you have a lot at stake—the future relationship between you and your grandchild. That is why it is so important to hire a knowledgeable family law attorney who fully understands Maryland’s laws regarding your legal matter and who can help you best safeguard your rights.

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In Maryland, a non-biological parent or non-adopted parent has an extremely uphill battle to guarantee any access to a minor child they may have a relationship with if a parent prohibits them. Even if prohibiting the relationship is not in the best interest of the child.

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If you are prohibited from seeing a minor child that you have a relationship with (grandchild, nephew, niece, godchild), there are three ways you can seek a court intervention: Guardianship, custody, and visitation

1. Guardianship

Guardianship is a type of custody. Often, a third party just needs to obtain guardianship for health and/or educational purposes. This is less intrusive than custody.

For example, guardianship is necessary in order to obtain medical treatment for a child. A medical provider may make exceptions in emergencies or for particular clients, but generally medical treatment will require a child’s parent or court appointed guardian to sign. Often, a third party will need to bring a parent to the doctor’s office to obtain treatment for the child if guardianship has not been granted.

However, in the 2014 Court of Special Appeals decision In re Guardianship of Zealand and Sophia W. 220 Md.App. 66 (2014), Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Montgomery County all declared that guardianships may only proceed if the parent’s rights have been terminated. This requires involvement of the local Department of Social Services.

Regardless of what county in Maryland you live in, depending on what the situation is with the natural and/or adopted parents/legal guardians, you can obtain informal kinship by executing two affidavits. One for school and one for medical. You will need to go into your local Department of Social Services to obtain an official copy.

2. Custody

Obtaining Custody of a child means that you become their de-facto parent and are responsible for the child’s welfare and well-being.

3. Visitation

Grandparent visitation rights are explained in the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Article § 9-102. The Statute reads as follows:

An Equity Court may:

  • consider a Petition for reasonable visitation of a grandchild by a grandparent; and
  • if the Court finds it to be in the best interest of the child, grant visitation rights to grandparent.

Generally, the court will honor the wishes of the custodial parent and presume that any schedule for visitation presented by the parent is in the best interest of the child. In 2007, the Court of Appeals affirmed that parents have a fundamental right to control the upbringing of their children and that grandparents may only be awarded visitation if they show that the parents are unfit or exceptional circumstances exist. This same standard applies if the person is seeking custody of the child.

Dealing with legal matters can often be complicated and intimidating. Having a strong legal advocate on your side can, however, make the situation much more manageable.

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