Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Maryland?

Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren after divorce, separation, adoption, or one parent’s death.

This article explains when and how grandparents in Maryland can request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren after life-altering changes in the family structure.

When can I ask for Court-ordered Visitation With My Grandchildren?

In Maryland, grandparents have a legal right to ask for reasonable visitation with their grandchildren at any time.

What Must I Prove in Court?

The grandparent asking for visitation has the "burden of proof" (duty to provide sufficient evidence) to show that the proposed time is in the child's best interests, considering health, safety, and welfare.

Judges automatically assume that parents act in their children's best interests and give great weight to their preferences regarding who gets to spend time with their children. If your grandchild's parent objects to your visits, you must overcome this "presumption" (legal assumption).

First, you will need to show that the parent is "unfit" (unable to make sound parenting decisions) and/or the child would suffer harm without the court-ordered time. The alleged harm must be substantial and concrete, such as abuse, neglect, or risk of emotional damage if the child is unable to see you.

If you successfully overcome the presumption in favor of the parent's preference, you must demonstrate that regular contact with you serves the child's best interests based on any evidence related to the child's welfare.

Can I Request Custody of My Grandchild?

Maryland courts automatically presume that custody with natural parents is in a child's best interests unless sufficient evidence warrants a different arrangement. Any non-parent can request custody by proving that living with the parents would be detrimental to the child based on:

  • the child's time away from the biological parent(s)
  • the child's age when the non-parent stepped in as a primary caregiver
  • the length of time the biological parent(s) waited to reestablish a parenting role
  • any risk of emotional harm to the child if the custody arrangement were changed
  • the child's relationship with the non-parent and attachment to the current living situation.
  • the sincerity of the parent's interest in regaining custody, and
  • the child's safety and stability in the parent's home.

If a court determines the child is at risk of serious harm with the parent, the child will be placed with the non-parent if a judge finds it would serve the child's best interest.

Will My Visitation Rights be Terminated if My Grandchild Is Adopted?

If your grandchild is adopted by someone other than a stepparent after one parent dies, your grandparent visitation rights will be terminated and transferred to the adoptive grandparents unless the adoptive parents agree to the proposed time.

How do I Start the Process?

The first step is to file a "petition," (formal written request) in the court making custody and visitation orders regarding your grandchild, and to notify everyone involved. In your petition, you will describe your proposed schedule for court-ordered visits. If you already have a visitation order, but you want more time or the child's parent is interfering, you can ask the court to "modify" (change) it, or enforce the order.

If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.

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