Knowing Your Parental Rights in Maryland

parental rights in marylandMaryland, like many other states, does not have a direct list of parental rights found in its state law.  However, courts have ruled on numerous cases which now provide a template for parental rights in Maryland.  Maryland law typically upholds constitutional parental rights, subject to specific provisions that have been laid out in different court cases.

Best Interests of the Child Test

Maryland courts look to best interests of the child in determining parental rights, which largely focuses on whether the parents are unfit to care for the child.  All of the factors must be considered in the state of Maryland when making a determination of parental rights.  Best interests of the child include:

  • Fitness of the parents – the psychological and physical capabilities of both, including any characteristic which may reflect on the parent’s ability to care for the child;

  • Character and reputation of the parties;

  • Desire of the natural parents and agreements between the two;

  • Potentiality of maintaining neutral family relations;

  • Child’s preference when they are old enough to form sound judgment;

  • Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child (typically only considered when one parent displays unfitness);

  • Age, health, and sex of the child, although the mother cannot get preferential treatment by the court;

  • Location of both parents’ residences;

  • Length of separation from natural parents;

  • Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender;

  • Capacity of the parents to communicate together and form rational decisions affecting the children together;

  • Willingness of the parents to share custody;

  • Relationship between the child and their parents;

  • Potential disruption of the child’s school and social life;

  • Geographic proximity of the parents’ homes;

  • Demands of the parents’ employment;

  • Number of children;

  • Sincerity of parents’ requests;

  • Financial status of the parents and impact on state or federal assistance;

  • Evidence of abuse by one party against the other parent, a spouse, or the child; and

  • The capacity of the parents to provide a safe home and adequate food, clothing, and medical care.

Maryland is one of few states which must consider all of the aforementioned facts when making a determination that may limit parental rights in a specific case.  Parental rights have the utmost protection under both state-based law and constitutional law, and it takes quite a showing of facts to cause a parent to lose their rights to their child.  An experienced family law attorney will be able to protect your parental rights and work to ensure you continue to have access to your child.