Recognizing a Child’s Needs: Grandparents Visitation Rights in Maryland

The relationships children have with their mothers and fathers are the most important relationships for the growth and development of a child. However, children cultivate many other relationships as they mature, such as those with friends, teammates, siblings and often their grandparents.

Maryland recognized the importance of grandparent relationships and now allows grandparents to petition for visitation rights in certain circumstances:

  • When the child's parents are divorced
  • The parents have annulled their marriage
  • If one or both of the child's parents are deceased

As shown, the most important factor in determining whether visitation rights will be granted is the status of the parents' marriage. If a child's parents are still married with an intact family unit, then a court will dismiss a grandparent's petition for visitation.

Factors a Court Will Consider

Grandparents wishing to submit a petition for visitation rights should be aware of the multiple factors a court will consider before their petition is approved. Although each case has its own unique circumstances, courts generally will consider, among other factors:

  • The wishes and preferences of the child (assuming they have the capacity to assert them)
  • The needs of the child, as well as what visitation plan, if any, is best suited to meet those needs
  • The past and present relationship the child has with their grandparent(s)
  • Whether visitation would impact the child's ability to focus on school and extracurricular activities
  • The emotional and physical health of both the child and the grandparent(s)

By no means is this list exhaustive as courts will consider nearly every facet of a child's life. The list does, however, offer a glimpse as to how courts determine whether grandparent visitation rights will be in the best interests of a child.

Petitioning for Full Custody

In addition to applying for visitation rights, there are occasions which dictate grandparents challenging for custody of their grandchild. However, custody is only awarded in extreme cases once parents are found to be unfit or if there are exceptionally distinct circumstances whereby the best interests of the child are served by granting custody to the grandparent.

It is important for individuals who have questions about visitation or custody rights to speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss their rights and potential options. Having a practiced lawyer can be invaluable once they help you see your grandchild more frequently.