Maryland In-Law and Grandparent Visitation Rights

Maryland divorces can be very stressful, having consequences for extended families, including grandparents. A 26-year study released last year found that the rate of divorce may depend at least partly on the strength of the relationship with one’s in-laws. The study found that a husband who has a close relationship with his wife’s parents has a risk of divorce that is decreased by 20 percent. On the other hand a wife with a close relationship to her husband’s parents has an increased risk of divorce.

The study conducted by Terri Orbuch, a research psychologist at the University of Michigan, looked at the relationships of 373 couples in their first year of marriage in 1986 and followed up with them. Orbuch explained that this study could be explained by the perceptions of husbands and wives. Women valued their close relationship to the in-laws, but saw them as interfering, whereas men did not take their in-laws actions as personally. Conversely, women felt taken care of when a husband made an effort to get along with her parents.

When a divorce happens, it may have an effect on how often grandparents visit with their grandchildren. In Maryland, since 2000, a grandparent seeking visitation must show (1) that there is parental unfitness or circumstances that show a detriment to the child without the grandparent’s visit, and (2) that visitation is in the child’s best interest. This is a tougher standard than many other states.

The first prong of this test can be very difficult to show, but it is required before the court will entertain an analysis of the child’s best interest. In Maryland, parents are presumed to have a due process interest in making all major decisions for their children, including whether a particular visitor is appropriate. Therefore, a parent must be unfit or there must be exceptional circumstances to infringe on a parent’s fundamental right to control their children’s upbringing.

One of the controlling cases on this issue is the 2007 case Koshko v. Haining, in which a father abandoned the mother who went to live with her parents who helped her raise her child for three years. The mother remarried against her parents’ wishes and moved away from the grandparents. For several years, the grandparents visited with the first grandchild and subsequent grandchildren.

Years later, the grandparents and the mother had a falling-out and the parents told the grandparents they could no longer visit with the kids. The grandfather threatened assault against the husband. The grandparents filed a lawsuit for visitation, which the trial court granted. The judge didn’t find that the parents were unfit or that any exceptional circumstances existed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there should have been this determination before analyzing whether the visits were in the child’s best interests. The grandparents filed another complaint for visitation, but were denied because they couldn’t show unfitness.

Maryland grandparents can have a difficult time establishing visitation against the parents wishes and they can influence a marriage towards or away from divorce. If you are a grandparent seeking visitation in Maryland or if you are a parent opposing a grandparents’ visitation, it is important to consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney. An experienced Maryland family law attorney can make a world of difference. Contact our office via the online form for a legal consultation.

More Blogs:

Maryland Court Rules Parent Cannot Bargain Away Child Support Without Court Approval, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 16, 2013

Maryland Court Decides Railroad Retirement Benefit Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2013


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