Grandparents’ Rights in Child Custody

Providing Personal, Professional Legal Services

Grandparents play a vital role in the upbringing of children. Their love and nurturing spirit benefit not only the child but also themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes grandparents can be caught in limbo when it comes to child custody. Do they have child custody rights to their grandchild? How can they go about getting custody of their grandchild? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

Maryland Classifications

In Maryland, there are only three classifications of relationships for child custody: parent, de facto parent, and third party. A parent is classified as a biological parent or someone who is classified as a child’s parent by law, like through adoption.

A de facto parent, according to Maryland law, is someone who the courts treat like a parent due to the person’s relationship with the child. To be considered a de facto parent in Maryland, you must show that:

  • The legal parent(s) consented to and fostered the relationship between you and the child
  • You have lived with the child
  • You perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree
  • A parent-child bond has been created

A third party classification in Maryland means anyone other than a parent or a de facto parent. This is the classification that grandparents, close family members, and friends fall into. 

Do Grandparents Have Rights as a “Third Party”? 

The short answer is yes. Yes because as a grandparent, you are legally allowed to ask for child custody. However, for Maryland courts to even consider granting child custody to a grandparent, grandparents will need to prove that the parent is unfit or that exceptional circumstances exist. Without proving either circumstance, they stand little chance of being granted custody over the objection of the parent, unless they can prove that they are a “de facto” parent.

Other Factors the Court Will Consider

There are various things the courts will consider when granting child custody. Although grandparents are granted the same legal custody rights as other third parties, Maryland courts will take into consideration the closeness of the relationship of the child and the third party petitioning for custody when circumstances justify removing a child from their parents. 

They will also consider things like:

  • The length of time the child has been away from the biological parent
  • The age of the child when the third party assumed care
  • The possible emotional effect on the child from the change of custody
  • The stability and certainty of the child’s future in the custody of the parent
  • The amount of time that elapsed before the parent sought to reclaim the child

Get the Answers to All Your Child Custody Legal Questions

For grandparents seeking legal advice and a child custody lawyer in MD, look no further than Alan Billian. We have over 40 years of experience in family law and can advise you on your rights as a grandparent. Give us a call today at (410) 889-5500 to learn how we can help.

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