Can I obtain custody rights for raising a non-biological child?

Imagine the following scenario. You have recently ended a long-term relationship with a parent of a child whom you helped raise from infancy. Although you and your partner have decided to part ways, you still remain on amicable terms, and the child still views you as his or her other parent. What recourse do you have to maintain visitation with that child under Maryland law?

This is a dilemma that many people in blended families as well as those within the LGBT community often face. Currently, Maryland considers the non-biological parent in the above-mentioned scenario as a “legal stranger” to the child. Basically, this means that even if you have formed a loving and trusting bond with the child, you still have no recognizable rights of access to the child. This is even true if the child refers to you as “mommy” or “daddy”.

If you are currently facing a similar predicament, you should know that there is a movement now underway within the Maryland General Assembly to restore some balance for non-biological individuals who have performed parental duties for child over the course of many years.

The proposed legislation has sponsorship from both the state Senate and House, and it is scheduled for consideration in this year’s legislation. The proposal is intended to grant the ability of non-biological parents to petition family courts for so-called “de facto” parental status. Put simply, the end of your relationship with a child’s parent would not automatically foreclose on your ability to remain in that child’s life.

Even if the bill passes, it’s important to remember that Maryland family courts will consider many factors when determining what is in the child’s best interests. That means that even de facto parents will still have to show that they are a positive influence on a child’s development.

It is also important to remember that a Maryland family law attorney can assist you with the often complicated process of adopting a child. This is a good way to preserve your access to the child regardless of what the future may hold.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “‘De facto parenthood’” accessed Mar. 25, 2015