A grandparents rights attorney understands the importance of your bond with your grandchildren. However, when a relationship ends, you might have a hard time seeing your them. Other times, grandparents want to raise their grandchildren, rather than subject them to the Baltimore foster care system. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we can help you protect your grandchildren and your right to see them.
Grandparents and Child Custody
Child custody has two elements:
- Legal custody: the right to make important decisions about a child’s health and welfare, and
- Physical custody: the day-to-day care of a child.
In Baltimore and the rest of Maryland, it is relatively difficult for grandparents to obtain custody of their grandchildren. Unless you are already a “de facto parent” that has taken on an active parenting role and bonded with the child, you must convince the court that there are exceptional circumstances that merit visitation or your grandchild’s parents are unfit.
Maryland courts weigh a series of factors when they decide whether there are exceptional circumstances in a custody claim. These factors include:
- The amount of time the child has been away from his or her parents,
- The age of the child when the grandparent assumed care,
- The emotional impact of a custody change,
- How long it took the parent to step back into a parenting role,
- The nature and strength of your grandparent-grandchild bond,
- Whether the parents have a sincere desire to regain custody, and
- The safety and stability of the parents’ home.
Your grandparents rights attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates can help you evaluate the circumstances surrounding your claim and develop evidence that supports your custody petition.
Evidence of Unfit Parenting
A parent is not unfit simply because you disagree with his or her parenting decisions. Instead, the courts evaluate a series of factors. A parent might be unfit if there is evidence of:
- Child neglect,
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse,
- A parent’s inability to care for your grandchild, due to mental illness, or
- Other harmful behavior that impacts the child’s welfare.
Unfit parenting claims can damage your relationships with both your grandchild’s parents and the child. Before you file a custody petition alleging unfit parenting, consult with a grandparents rights attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates. We will help you understand the implications of filing an unfit parenting claim and assess the strength of your case.
How Does a Grandparent Request Custody of a Grandchild?
The first step towards getting custody of your grandchild is filing a custody petition and serving it upon your grandchild’s parent. Once a petition is filed, the court will schedule a custody hearing. Because grandparent custody cases involve strict legal standards, it’s in your best interest to retain an experienced grandparents rights attorney. An attorney will give you the best possible chance of getting custody of your grandchildren.
Grandparents and Visitation Rights
In Maryland, visitation rights permit you to spend time with your grandchild. While grandparents can request reasonable visitation rights, it’s typically an uphill battle. There is a Maryland law (Maryland Code, Family Law Article §9-102) protecting grandparent visitation rights, but the courts have limited its scope. If the parents have agreed to a visitation schedule, the courts typically will assume that this schedule is in the child’s best interests. To successfully petition for visitation, grandparents typically again must show that their grandchild’s parents are unfit or there are exceptional circumstances meriting visitation.
Most grandparents cannot successfully petition for visitation or custody on their own. Instead, they rely on the experience and guidance of a grandparents rights attorney. The lawyers at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates are ready to help you file a successful grandparent visitation claim. Contact us today for more information.
Grandparent Guardianships and Adoptions
Under certain circumstances, a grandparent can become a child’s guardian or adoptive parent. A guardian has the legal authority to make important decisions for a child — including educational and health care decisions. However, this responsibility can end under certain circumstances. Adoption permanently transfers all parental rights to the grandparent. You might petition for guardianship or adoption if:
- Guardianship: The department of social services is involved, due to concerns about your grandchild’s safety or welfare.
- Adoption: Your grandchild’s parents lost their parental rights or are deceased.
Because there are strict procedural and legal requirements involved, you should strongly consider hiring a grandparents rights attorney to help you with the adoption or guardianship process. Even a single mistake can result in serious delays or the denial or your request. Contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates for more information about grandparent adoptions and guardianships.
Discuss Your Case With a Baltimore Grandparents Rights Attorney
If you have questions about custody, visitation, or other family law issues, contact a Baltimore grandparents rights attorney. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we know that grandparents play an important role in the grandchildren’s lives. We can help you protect the bond between you and your grandchildren. Contact us for more information, as well as a free consultation.