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Baltimore County Family Law Attorney Blog

Baltimore & Towson Lawyer Discusses De Facto Parentage

Written by Amar Weisman » March 11, 2015 »

Back in 2008, a Maryland court considered whether or not the state would recognize de facto parenthood. The case involved a woman (Margaret) who was in a same-sex relationship and seeking to obtain visitation rights or custody of a child who was adopted by the other female in the relationship (Janice). The women lived together for approximately 18 years and they both shared in the responsibility of caring for the child. However, in 2004, the couple separated.

After the separation, Margaret and Janice began having problems and ultimately, Janice restricted Margaret’s visitation with the child. Eventually, Margaret was completely denied visitation and she filed a complaint seeking visitation or custody of the child. The Circuit Court found no evidence that Janice, as the adoptive mother, was unfit such that the child needed to be removed from her care.

However, the court further found that Margaret was entitled to visitation as a “de facto parent” based on the fact that Janice had agreed to the relationship that existed between the child and Margaret; Margaret lived with the child for approximately 3 ½ years and had performed parental functions during that time; and a parent-child bond had been created.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the lower court; however, Janice and Margaret petitioned the Court of Appeals to examine the question of whether an exceptional circumstances or best interest standard applied to visitation with a de facto parent.

The Meaning of De Facto Parent and the Court’s Findings

The appellate court noted the term “de facto parent” applies to an individual who claims visitation or custody with a child who is not his or her biological or adopted child. The Court of Appeals, which had never addressed de facto parenthood, decided not to recognize de facto parent status in Maryland, noting that it was contrary to state case law.

Is Change on the Horizon?

Despite the fact that individuals may have performed parental duties over a period of many years, Maryland law does not recognize their parental responsibilities and rights. In fact, in divorce and separation proceedings, state courts typically regard the individuals as “legal strangers” to the child they’ve raised. However, new legislation seeks to change that.

The proposal, which is sponsored by members of the Senate and House, would provide non-biological parents and those who never formally adopted the kids they helped raise with the right to petition for de facto parental status when the couple’s relationship ceases. Simply stated, the law would permit those individuals to ask for custody and visitation privileges as though they were the child’s legal parent.

Maryland’s definition of parenthood was drafted to assist in protecting family units from the financial difficulties of divorce; however, as many lawmakers and other interested parties have noted, the laws no longer reflect the diverse modern families of today and should be updated.

A Baltimore and Towson Family Law Attorney Can Help

The proposed legislation is important for same-sex couples and the children being raised in their households. If you would like to learn more about the proposed law and how it may affect your future relationship with a child or children you’ve helped raise, contact the Law Offices of Amar Weisman, LLC as soon as possible.

Call (410) 321-4994 For a Free Consultation 

Call The Law Offices of Amar S. Weisman at (410) 321-4994 to schedule a Free ConsultationThe Purpose of the consultation is to determine whether you want to retain this law firm as your Baltimore County & Harford County Family Lawyer. If you do wish to proceed, then you must pay a retainer. See Our Policy on Fees and Costs. The family firm is located next to The Circuit Court for Baltimore County, at 1018 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, MD 21204.