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Grandparents' Rights: The Basics

These days, many grandparents play a significant role in raising their grandchildren, and the grandparent-grandchild bonds forged as a result are sacred. But when circumstances change, it may be necessary for a grandparent to pursue custody of a child to preserve the grandparent-grandchild relationship they have, and protect the child’s wellbeing. This legal process could be triggered for a number of reasons—from questions about the parents’ caretaking abilities to bad blood between the grandparents and parents. In situations that could result in the parents denying the grandparents any contact with the kids, a request for court-ordered visitation may be desired to attain the grandparents' rights in Maryland.

If you’re a grandparent seeking child custody or visitation, our experienced attorneys are here to help. At Z Family Law, we know how important your relationship is with your grandkids—and we’ll do everything in our power to protect it.

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Grandparent Visitation

According to the Maryland Family Law Code, grandparents may request visitation with their grandchildren whenever they so choose. At the same time, Maryland courts dictate that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children on their own terms, which includes deciding who their children spend time with (and how often). This means that if a parent decides to sever regular contact between their children and grandparents, that decision will be binding—except when exceptional circumstances are at play. When a grandparent circumvents the parents’ objection in order to seek visitation, they must prove to Maryland courts that the parents are ‘unfit’ or that the child's best interest will be compromised if they are denied access to the grandparent because of exceptional circumstances.

Dealing with challenging of family dynamics shouldn't fall on the shoulders of children. Proving damage to a child under this standard can be challenging, therefore requiring additional testimony from professionals such as psychologists, therapists, and court-appointed social workers. When navigating the intricacies of these cases, you need the best grandparents' rights attorney Maryland has to offer. At Z Family Law, we are well-connected with these professionals and can assist you in building your case.

Grandparent Visitation

Grandparent Custody

Unsurprisingly, the same presumption that parents have a right to raise their children as they please also means that a grandparent seeking custody of a grandchild faces a high burden of proof; grandparents' rights in Maryland are complex. Typically, only extraordinary circumstances—such as substance abuse or dependency, untreated and unmanaged mental illness,, neglect, or abuse—can compel a court to rule that a parent is unfit and cannot care for their children.

Any grandparent who believes they can prove the presence of these factors may file a grandparent's petition for child custody with the family court. When evaluating the request, a judge will always prioritize the child's best interest. Some factors the family court will evaluate are:

  • The sincerity of the grandparent’s commitment to having child custody
  • The impact a change in child custody might have on the child
  • The child’s age
  • The physical/mental health of the child, grandparent, and parent
  • The grandparent’s ability to provide a stable living environment for the child
  • The grandparent’s relationship with the parents

While our topical knowledge of family structures today might suggest that a grandparent should receive custody rights over other parties in a custody case, under Maryland law, grandparents in fact have the same legal standing as any other person, such as an aunt, cousin, or even an unrelated third party.

The Role of a Grandparents' Rights Attorney

Because of the constitutional presumption that parents can dictate who has contact with their children, many grandparents face an uphill battle when deciding to seek child custody or grandparent visitation rights. However, custody law is centered around the well-being of the children concerned, and there are certainly cases in which it’s best for the children to have an ongoing relationship with their grandparents. Whether it comes to settling a child custody or visitation dispute, our team of knowledgeable attorneys can help identify and pursue the best legal course of action to preserve your grandparents' rights in Maryland—so all parties can stay involved in the children’s lives in a healthy, meaningful way.

Pro Tip: When you gain visitation rights or custody of your grandchildren, be sure to take this time to build them up and not talk negatively about either parent involved in the divorce. For instance, read them kids’ books about divorce. If they are a bit older, send them resources on divorce that are more suited for their age.

Finding the Right Attorney for You

As you navigate this challenging time, a trusted legal team who can help you make rational, well-guided decisions is essential. After all, when it comes to safeguarding your relationship with your grandkids, the importance of finding strategic and compassionate legal counsel focused solely on family law cannot be understated. By combining our vast legal strategy and experience, our tenured family law attorneys can design a tailored strategy to help you take back your power and build the new beginning you deserve.

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