Grandparents often play a significant role in their grandchildren’s lives. Unfortunately, there are many ways a grandparent’s relationship with their grandchildren can be threatened. While Maryland law does give parents the right to deny anyone access to their children, grandparents also have legal options available to them to preserve the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
If your relationship with your grandchildren has been severed, or if you have concerns about how your grandchildren are being cared for, a Montgomery County grandparents’ rights lawyer may be able to help. A compassionate family law attorney understands the emotional and legal challenges of these cases and can work to reach a favorable resolution for you and your grandchildren.
When Should Grandparents Seek Court-Ordered Visitation?
When parents do not allow the grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren, it may seem as though there is nothing that can be done. However, in some of these circumstances, the grandparents do have the right to seek a court order. Some of these circumstances include:
- A parent is withholding the children from the grandparents due to a contentious divorce or custody dispute
- One parent passes away and the surviving parent denies visitation to the grandparents
- The grandparents and the parents have an altercation, and to retaliate, the parents refuse the grandparents the ability to see their grandchildren
- A grandchild is adopted by a stepparent who denies the grandparents any contact
These are painful situations, especially when the grandparents and grandchildren have enjoyed a close and loving relationship. Fortunately, a knowledgeable lawyer in Montgomery County can assess the facts and determine if it is the grandparents’ right to seek court-ordered time with their grandchild.
A Grandparent’s Right to Seek Visitation in Maryland
Under Maryland Code Annotated, Family Law Article §9-102, a court may grant a petition for visitation if it is in the grandchild’s best interest. However, because parents generally have the right to decide who can visit with their children, grandparents have an even higher burden of proof to succeed. In addition to showing that visitation is in their grandchild’s best interest, they must also demonstrate that the grandchild will be irreparably harmed if the grandparent-grandchild relationship is not maintained.
This process can be an uphill battle. An individual faced with this situation is well-advised to consult an experienced local attorney as soon as contact with their grandchildren is threatened.
Can a Grandparent Obtain Custody of a Grandchild?
A judge may grant a child’s custody to a grandparent, but the legal process is challenging. To succeed, the grandparents must prove that the child’s legal parents are unfit or that circumstances exist warranting a change in custody. Evidence of unfitness might include parental abuse or neglect, alcohol or drug addiction, or untreated mental illness.
Additionally, there is no legal preference for grandparents to have custody over other third parties. For example, if a child’s parents are deemed unfit and a grandparent and a distant relative both seek custody, both parties have equal rights at the start of the case. A judge will then determine the most suitable custodian for the child.
‘Exceptional Circumstances’ in Montgomery County Grandparents’ Rights Cases
When deciding the grandparents’ custody petition, a judge considers several factors. These factors include:
- The amount of time the child has been away from their parents
- The child’s age when the grandparents began caring for them
- The emotional impact on the child of changing custody
- The strength of the grandparent-grandchild bond
- The sincerity of the parents’ desire to maintain or regain custody
A lawyer with experience in grandparents’ rights cases can help gather evidence to prove exceptional circumstances and present the grandparents’ case to the Montgomery County court.
Reach Out to a Montgomery County Grandparents’ Rights Attorney
Too often, grandparents and grandchildren are separated from each other through no fault of their own, leading to pain and loss for everyone involved. If you have been denied contact with your grandkids or need to protect your grandchildren by seeking their custody, an experienced attorney can help.
A Montgomery County grandparents’ rights lawyer is well-versed in this area of law and can help you protect the grandchildren you love. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.