Maryland Legislators Introduce Bill Addressing “de facto” Parental Status

Many family law cases, such as a divorce or separation proceeding, involve child custody and visitation issues. When the divorcing spouses are the biological or adoptive parents of the children involved, Maryland law provides ample protections with respect to their parental rights and responsibilities going forward. Significantly, courts have the authority to order a parenting arrangement and child support, in accordance with the best interests of the child. And if the spouse who is required to pay child support fails to meet the obligation, courts are empowered to take extra measures to ensure that the child is financially supported. If you are faced with a child custody, visitation, or support issue, you are strongly encouraged to contact a local family law attorney who can work to ensure that your (and your child’s) rights are adequately protected.

According to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun, the current law fails to address the “parental” rights of a couple who splits up, when neither spouse is the biological or adoptive parent of any children they are raising. In this kind of a case, Maryland state courts would effectively regard such parents as “legal strangers,” regardless of whether they have raised the child or not. At the heart of this problem are any children from this relationship, who stand to lose the love, emotional security, and financial support of one or more parents who wish to retain their parental rights and responsibilities.

Two Maryland legislators, Senator Richard Madaleno and Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, have co-sponsored a Bill to remedy this challenging situation. Specifically, the proposed Bill would afford non-biological parents — and those who have never formally adopted the children they have raised – to petition a court for “de facto” parental status, when the adult relationship terminates. The act of petitioning the court would not grant the adult parental status, but rather would simply provide the caregiver with an opportunity to seek parental status, subject to the court’s review.

The article points out that one of the reasons that caregivers fail to legally adopt the children they helped raise is because the law in Maryland bars a child from having more than two legal parents. Because of this restriction, many non-biological parents resort to caring for the children, despite lacking the protections afforded to “legal” parents. The state of the “family” is an evolving matter. But according to the Bill’s sponsors, the law has failed to keep up with the diversity of the modern family and its concomitant changing needs. Per the Baltimore Sun article, the proposed Bill stems from a case involving same-sex adoptive parents.

In other family law-related news concerning the evolving nature of the family, the United States Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the issue of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide. All of Maryland’s Congressional Democrats and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have indicated their support for this issue before the Court.

As families change, evolve, and diversify, there seems to be a need for certain laws to keep pace, in order to adequately protect the rights of parents, caregivers, and children. Family law issues and disputes can be complicated and emotionally draining. If you are considering divorce or separation, or are currently dealing with a child custody issue, you are encouraged to reach out to an experienced family lawyer from the local area. Anthony A. Fatemi is a Maryland family law attorney with experience representing parties in divorce and related matters.  For representation and legal guidance, you can contact Mr. Fatemi at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.

Related Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Addresses Immigration Status of Child in Divorce and Custody

Maryland Governor O’Malley Establishes Commission on Child Custody Decision Making

Maryland Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage (and Divorce); Some States Don’t

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