In this day and age, the definition of what a “family” is and what it looks like has been expanded. There are more single parent families, blended families, and situations where grandparents and even great-grandparents are raising their grandchildren. I’ve been asked this question multiple times over the past couple years of practice, and that is “What rights do grandparents have regarding visitation and custody of their grandchildren?” Typically, grandparents have no rights.
The state of Maryland leaves it up to the parents to decide what is in the best interest of their child(ren). However, many times grandparents are the primary caretakers of their grandchildren or they've been very active in the life of the child. In these cases, a grandparent may file a petition with the court for custody of the grandchild(ren) if the child has been living with them for an extensive period of time, and the grandparent has provided all of the care for the child. In cases of visitation issues, generally, the court will side with the decision of the parents unless the grandparent can otherwise show it will be in the best interest of the child to have visitation. However, if a parent decides that they want custody of their child(ren) or to prohibit visitation of the child(ren), it will be a difficult battle in court, even for the grandparent who’s done everything for the child. The grandparent must show that the parents are unfit, and that it is in the best interest of the child to remain in their custody. Things such as the age of the grandparent, health condition, and ability to take care of the child are taken in to consideration.
Do grandparents win custody battles? Yes. However, it is a very difficult thing to do. Parents have a right to parent their own children, and unless their rights have been terminated for one reason or another, or they are unfit, courts will go along with the decision of the parents.
For more information, please visit Smith Legal Services, LLC. at www.mysmithlegal.com