Maryland takes the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren so seriously, it’s in the Family Law Code. This isn’t a limitless right, so it does not guarantee that a grandparent can go to court and win legal visitation. The constitution gives Maryland parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to deciding what is best for their children, which means that, if they don’t want their children to see the grandparents, it can be a tough road to obtain visitation or custodial rights. However, it can be done, and it’s important to understand the factors that may make the difference.
Best Interest of the Child
Maryland courts will always look to the best interests of the child when deciding on support, custody and visitation issues. Considering the dizzying number of factors that might come into play when trying to apply this standard, over the years, the courts have established certain presumptions and standards to help guide their analysis. As mentioned, the courts will assume that parents have the strongest and best sense of the needs of their children, so courts will take their opinion very seriously. In situations where the parents disagree over grandparent visitation, there are potentially dozens of issues that a court can look at to make its decision.
Visitation or Custody when Parents Are Opposed
Even when a parent opposes grandparent visitation, the circumstances may lead a court to order visitation anyway. Grandparents can show that the parents are unfit to make decisions in the best interest of their children. They can also introduce evidence that there are other exceptional circumstances. For example, grandparents can argue that they have actually been the stand-in or de facto parents of their grandchild, so depriving the child of continued contact would be harmful.
Similarly, under specific circumstances, grandparents with a significant relationship to their grandchildren can obtain actual custody. For example, if substance abuse or some other situation that might endanger a child has led to them living with the grandparents, a court might decide the best interest lies in giving the grandparents physical custody. This is a difficult case to argue, and legal counsel is strongly recommended.
Since Maryland strongly favors parental decision-making when it comes to children, proving that it is in the best interest of grandchildren to see their grandparents takes some extraordinary circumstances and good counsel to obtain this outcome. Before going to court and fighting this battle, it is a good idea to check with experienced counsel to find out if your unique family circumstances have a chance at success. A Maryland family law attorney with experience in grandparent visitation and custody matters can help you assess your situation and propose alternative avenues to court.