Co-parenting in the New Year: Essential Strategies for Success

The dawn of a New Year symbolizes a fresh start, presenting unique opportunities and challenges for co-parenting. It’s a time to reflect on past practices and set new goals for a more harmonious and effective parenting partnership. Below offers key strategies for divorced or separated parents to successfully navigate co-parenting in the New Year, focusing on creating a positive and nurturing environment for their children.

Co-parenting in the New Year Essential Strategies for Success

Setting Co-parenting Resolutions

A vital step in strengthening co-parenting is to set realistic and constructive resolutions. These could range from improving communication to being more flexible with scheduling. It’s about identifying areas that need improvement and committing to positive changes. For instance, a resolution might be to consistently update each other on the children’s activities and achievements.

Effective Communication Strategies

Effective communication is the bedrock of successful co-parenting. It involves being clear, respectful, and consistent in your interactions. This might mean establishing regular check-ins or using a shared digital calendar for updates. Ensuring that both parents are on the same page reduces misunderstandings and fosters a collaborative environment for decision-making.

Scheduling and Planning for the Year

Start the year by planning out the key dates, such as school events, birthdays, and holidays. Using digital tools or shared apps can help keep both parents informed and involved. Early planning allows for smoother transitions and less stress, especially during busy periods or holidays.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Flexibility is crucial in co-parenting, as unexpected situations will arise. Whether it’s a last-minute change in plans or an unforeseen event, being adaptable can help manage these situations effectively. Developing a contingency plan for such instances can also be beneficial.

Prioritizing Children’s Needs and Well-being

At the heart of co-parenting is the well-being of your children. This means prioritizing their emotional and physical needs above all else. Encourage your children to express their feelings and be supportive of their needs. This approach helps them feel secure and loved, irrespective of the parental changes they are experiencing.

Collaborating on Parenting Decisions

Co-parenting requires mutual decision-making on key parenting issues. This could be about education, health, or extracurricular activities. When disagreements arise, it’s important to handle them constructively, focusing on finding a middle ground that serves the best interest of the children.

Building a Supportive Co-parenting Relationship

A supportive co-parenting relationship is built on mutual respect and understanding. It’s about recognizing each other’s strengths and contributions as parents. Regularly acknowledging and appreciating the efforts of the co-parent can go a long way in maintaining a positive relationship.

Navigating co-parenting in the New Year requires commitment, communication, and collaboration. By adopting these strategies, you can create a more effective and harmonious co-parenting dynamic. Remember, the ultimate goal is to provide a stable, loving environment for your children, where they can thrive and feel supported.

Legal Tips for Divorced Parents: Understanding Your Rights This Winter Holiday

The festive cheer of the winter holiday season often brings unique challenges for divorced parents, particularly concerning legal rights and responsibilities. Understanding these aspects is crucial to ensure a smooth and conflict-free holiday for both parents and children. Below aims to shed light on key legal considerations and tips for divorced parents during the winter holiday season, helping to navigate this period with less stress and more clarity.

Legal Tips for Divorced Parents Understanding Your Rights This Winter Holiday

Custody and Visitation Rights

Central to holiday planning for divorced parents are custody and visitation rights. It’s vital to adhere to the specifics of court-ordered custody agreements, which often outline holiday schedules. If you wish to modify these arrangements for the winter holiday season, such changes should be made in advance and, ideally, with mutual consent. Understanding and respecting these legal boundaries not only avoids legal complications but also ensures a stable and predictable holiday experience for your children.

Travel and Holiday Plans

Holiday travel, especially when it involves crossing state lines or international borders, requires careful legal consideration. You must review your custody agreement for any travel restrictions or required permissions from the other parent. Early communication and agreement on travel plans can prevent last-minute disputes and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

Decision-Making and Parental Responsibilities

During the holidays, decision-making can range from choosing gifts to determining participation in certain holiday activities. It’s important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities in these areas. It is important to balance respect for established family traditions, with an opportunity to create new experiences that reflect the changed family dynamics.

Financial Obligations and Child Support

The holiday season often brings additional financial pressures, including child support obligations and other holiday-related expenses. It’s essential to budget responsibly and understand any legal obligations regarding child support and additional holiday expenses. Transparent and fair discussions about these financial aspects can prevent misunderstandings and ensure that the children’s needs are met.

In the event of legal disputes or emergencies, such as a violation of custody agreements, it’s crucial to have a strategy for resolution. Ideally, these should be resolved amicably and in the best interest of the children. However, if serious legal issues arise, it’s important to know the steps to take, which might include seeking legal counsel or contacting relevant authorities.

For specific legal issues or uncertainties, consulting with a family law attorney is advisable. A legal professional can provide tailored advice and guidance based on your situation. Additionally, there are numerous resources and support services available for divorced parents seeking legal assistance during the holiday season.

Understanding and navigating the legal landscape as a divorced parent during winter holiday season is crucial for ensuring a peaceful and joyous holiday season. By being informed about your legal rights and responsibilities, planning ahead, and communicating effectively, you can create a holiday experience that is enjoyable and fulfilling for both you and your children.

Navigating Holiday Custody Arrangements: Essential Guide for Divorced Parents

The holiday season, a time for joy and family celebrations, can be particularly challenging for divorced parents navigating holiday custody arrangements. As parents, ensuring a joyful and harmonious holiday experience for your children is paramount. Belowaims to provide effective strategies for shared parenting during this festive season, with focus on creating a positive environment for your children. Embracing these strategies can help transform the holiday season into a period of shared joy and new beginnings, despite the complexities of co-parenting.

Understanding and Honoring Custody Agreements

One of the first steps in navigating holiday custody arrangements for divorced parents is to understand and honor the existing legal custody agreements. These agreements are designed with the children’s best interests in mind and are legally binding. Ensuring adherence to these schedules not only aligns with legal obligations but also provides a sense of consistency and security for your children. It’s important to revisit these agreements well before the holiday season and discuss any potential changes or adjustments with your ex-spouse.

Communication and Planning

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful co-parenting during the holidays. It involves open, respectful, and proactive discussions about holiday plans, including travel, family visits, and special events. Start these conversations early to allow ample time for negotiation and planning. Additionally, being prepared for unexpected changes and maintaining a flexible attitude can help manage any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

Creating a Holiday Parenting Plan

A well-thought-out holiday parenting plan can significantly ease the stress of co-parenting during this busy time. This plan should be fair, considering both parents’ wishes and, most importantly, the children’s desires and needs. Key elements include dividing the holiday period, alternating significant days each year, and respecting established family traditions while being open to creating new ones.

Managing Expectations and Compromise

It’s crucial for divorced parents to manage their expectations around holiday custody arrangements. Holidays post-divorce might look different, and that is normal. Being prepared to compromise and finding a middle ground where both parents and children are content is essential. Remember, the primary goal is to ensure your children’s happiness and well-being during the holidays.

Establishing New Traditions

The holidays are a time for establishing new traditions with your children. These can coexist alongside cherished past traditions, providing a sense of continuity and novelty. Involve your children in the process of creating new traditions, which will make them feel valued and included. Whether it’s a special holiday activity or a unique way of celebrating, these new traditions can add a fresh and positive dimension to the holidays.

Self-Care and Support

Navigating holiday custody arrangements can be emotionally taxing for divorced parents. It’s important to prioritize your well-being through self-care and seeking support from your network of friends, family, or professionals. A balanced approach to personal needs and parenting responsibilities can significantly impact your ability to provide a joyful and stable holiday environment for your children.

Navigating holiday custody arrangements as divorced parents requires patience, communication, and a child-focused approach. By prioritizing your children’s needs, embracing new traditions, and maintaining a collaborative spirit with your co-parent, you can turn the holiday season into a time of shared joy and meaningful experiences. Ultimately, the goal is to create a holiday atmosphere that is enriching and enjoyable for everyone involved, setting a positive tone for co-parenting in the years to come.

Rights of Grandparents: Visitation and Custody in Family Law

Grandparents often play a profound role in their grandchildren’s lives by showering them with unconditional love, passing on family traditions, and providing wisdom and guidance from their decades of life experience. However, when a grandchild’s family undergoes major changes like divorce or the tragic death of a parent, grandparents may suddenly find their access to their beloved grandchildren threatened or wholly denied. In these heartbreaking cases, devoted grandparents are left wondering if the legal system provides any recourse for them to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren. Below is an in-depth examination of grandparents’ rights, specifically visitation, and custody, under modern family law. We will explore the evolution of these rights over time, dig into the legal criteria and court considerations, and provide practical tips for grandparents seeking to legally preserve bonds with their grandchildren.

Rights of Grandparents: Visitation and Custody in Family Law

The Evolution of Grandparents’ Rights

Historical Context

Historically, grandparents possessed very few legal rights with regard to visitation or custody of their grandchildren. The long-standing legal view was that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to the care, control, and custody of their children without outside interference. Grandparents were seen as having no special status in the eyes of the law compared to any other third party or non-relative. Up until the 1960s, grandparents had an extremely difficult time securing visitation rights if the parents objected for any reason. Gaining custody of grandchildren over the parents’ wishes was essentially impossible except in the most dire circumstances.

However, evolving societal views on family structures and the rights of extended family members led to gradual legal changes. The rising divorce rate left single parents struggling to balance work and childcare. Blended families created a complicated web of step-parents and half-siblings. Tragically, the opioid epidemic left many children orphaned or removed from parents battling addiction. Through it all, grandparents consistently stepped up as a crucial source of love, stability, and care for vulnerable children facing family disruption. Out of these shifts emerged the rationale for an evolving legal framework of grandparents’ rights.

Today, all 50 U.S. states have enacted some form of legislation granting grandparents the ability to petition courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. The degree of rights varies significantly between states. A minority of about 14 states provide very minimal rights while others are quite favorable to grandparents’ interests. States also differ on whether grandparents can petition for visitation if the parent’s rights are still intact versus only if their rights are terminated or at least severely diminished. When it comes to custody rights, around 25 states allow grandparents to request custody, but usually only under limited circumstances where the parents are proven unfit and unable to properly care for the children.

The state of Maryland, for instance, not only allows grandparents to petition for visitation but also custody in certain situations. While parents are given great consideration in the eyes of Maryland family law, judges may override parental decisions under special conditions with compelling evidence of the necessity of intervention that supports the best interest of the children. Securing visitation or custody remains a legally uphill battle for grandparents in Maryland and nationwide. But the evolution toward recognizing the grandparent-grandchild relationship in law gives hope to grandparents dealing with painful family disruptions.

Visitation Rights

For a grandparent to convince a court to grant visitation rights against a parent’s wishes, certain demanding legal criteria must be met to justify state intervention in parental decisions under the protection of family privacy:

  • The grandparent must effectively demonstrate to the court that allowing them to have visitation is in the best interests of the child based on an evaluation of the child’s needs. This is the paramount consideration.
  • There must already be a clearly established relationship between the grandparent and grandchild they are seeking access to. The law values preserving such preexisting bonds.
  • If a parent opposes visitation, the grandparent must provide valid reasons to question that decision and explain how the child will be harmed without visitation.
  • In contested cases, the grandparent typically needs to prove the parent is unfit to make decisions about visitation, often due to circumstances like parental substance abuse.

Beyond this basic framework, the court will weigh multiple factors surrounding family relationships and situations to determine if forced grandparent visitation is justified and beneficial for the child.

The Best Interests of the Child

The court’s analysis of a child’s best interests aims to protect their overall welfare based on a totality of considerations, with the child as the central focus. Key factors weighed may include:

  • The child’s age and degree of maturity to express their wishes.
  • The strength of the emotional bond between grandparent and grandchild.
  • Potential benefits to the child’s development and well-being from spending time with a loving grandparent.
  • Any preexisting relationship or role in providing caregiving.
  • The grandparent’s moral character, mental health, and ability to function capably as a caregiver.
  • Physical proximity of the grandparent’s home to the child’s primary residence.
  • Level of hostility or conflict between the parent and grandparent seeking access.
  • Risk of disrupting the child’s schedule or undermining the parent’s authority.
  • Any potential for exposing the child to dangerous or morally questionable environments.

A grandparent seeking visitation must convince the court their presence in the child’s life will be in the child’s overall best interest based on an assessment of the above factors.

Custody Rights

When Can Grandparents Seek Custody?

While granting visitation against a parent’s wishes is difficult enough, awarding full or partial child custody to a grandparent over the objections of present and fit parents is rare. However, when a child’s parents are proven to be unfit or unable to care for them, courts may consider granting grandparents custodial rights. Circumstances include:

  • The death or disability of both parents.
  • Long-term drug or alcohol abuse by parents.
  • Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
  • Parental incarceration.
  • A child catching parents in criminal activity.
  • Severe mental illness or instability of parents.
  • An unsafe environment in the parents’ home.

In essence, for grandparents to wrest custody away from natural parents, they must prove not just that the child would benefit, but that parental custody would result in clear, ongoing detriment and harm to the child’s safety and wellbeing. The evidence required is substantial.

The legal hurdles involved in grandparents gaining full or joint child custody over the living parents’ objections are immense compared to securing visitation rights. The longstanding constitutional precedent of parental autonomy means parents have an assumed right to raise their children that cannot easily be infringed upon. Judges may be reluctant to undermine parents’ wishes if they appear at all fit and capable. For grandparents to prevail, they must:

  • Establish unambiguous, compelling evidence of parental unfitness with thorough documentation. Their own subjective standards are insufficient.
  • Demonstrate they are not just better custodians than the parents on paper, but that residing with parents would result in emotional, developmental, or physical damage to the child’s welfare. The benefit is not enough; the detriment must be proven.
  • Show they are fully capable of providing everything the child needs at their age and stage of development, including but not limited to a safe home, financial resources, transportation, education, healthcare, nutrition, emotional support, social engagement, and more.
  • Be prepared for legal opposition and delays that can emotionally and financially drain grandparents seeking custody. Parents do not easily relinquish their rights.

Grandparents who step up during family crisis to spare grandchildren from harm deserve admiration. However, the road to gaining custodial rights is long and arduous even in compelling circumstances. Experienced legal counsel is essential.

Understanding relevant state laws, consulting capable attorneys, actively documenting grandparent involvement, and focusing on child welfare can aid grandparents seeking to legally preserve a role in their grandchildren’s lives when faced with painful family disruption. Above all, open communication and mediation between grandparents and parents is optimal for achieving visitation agreements and upholding family.

Grandparent Rights in Divorce Cases: Understanding the Rights of Grandparents in Custody and Visitation Disputes

Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren: they provide love, support, and guidance. However, when a divorce occurs and custody and visitation disputes arise, grandparents may find themselves struggling to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren. In this article, we will explore the rights of grandparents in custody and visitation disputes and provide guidance on how to protect those rights.

maryland grandparents rights lawyer

Understanding Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparents do not have an automatic right to visitation with their grandchildren. Grandparents must petition the court for visitation rights. The court will consider a number of factors when determining whether or not to grant grandparent visitation, including:

  1. The nature and extent of the grandparent-grandchild relationship: The court will consider the quality and history of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, as well as the role the grandparent has played in the child’s life.
  2. The parents’ wishes: The court will consider the wishes of the child’s parents regarding grandparent visitation. If both parents are opposed to grandparent visitation, it may be more difficult to obtain.
  3. The child’s best interests: The court will always consider the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation. If the court determines that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests, it may be granted.

It’s important to note that grandparent visitation rights vary by state, and some states have stricter requirements for granting visitation rights than others.

Understanding Grandparent Custody Rights

In addition to visitation rights, grandparents may also have the right to seek custody of their grandchildren in certain circumstances. Grandparents can seek custody if:

  1. The parents are unfit: If both parents are deemed unfit, either due to neglect, abuse, or substance abuse issues, the court may award custody to the grandparents.
  2. The parents are deceased: If both parents have died, the grandparents may be awarded custody of the child.
  3. The child has lived with the grandparents for a significant period of time: If the child has been living with the grandparents for a significant period of time and has developed a strong attachment to them, the court may award custody to the grandparents upon considering the best interest of the child.

It’s important to note that seeking custody of a grandchild can be a difficult and emotional process, and it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the legal process.

Protecting Grandparent Rights

If you are a grandparent who is concerned about your rights in a custody or visitation dispute, there are several steps you can take to protect those rights:

  1. Stay involved: It’s important to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren, even if there is a dispute between the parents. Regular phone calls, visits, and letters can help strengthen your relationship with your grandchildren and show the court that you are committed to their well-being.
  2. Document your relationship: Keep a record of your visits, phone calls, and other interactions with your grandchildren. This documentation can be used to support your case in court.
  3. Seek legal advice: If you are concerned about your rights as a grandparent, it’s important to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer who can help you understand your options and protect your rights.
  4. Be supportive: It’s important to be supportive of your grandchildren and avoid taking sides in custody disputes. This can help ensure that your relationship with your grandchildren remains strong and can help support your case in court.

Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, but they may find themselves struggling to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren during a divorce and custody dispute. By understanding grandparent visitation and custody rights and taking steps to protect those rights, grandparents can help ensure that their relationships with their grandchildren are preserved.

Remember, seeking visitation or custody rights as a grandparent can be a complex legal process. It’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the process and advocate for your rights and interests. With the right guidance and support, you can protect your relationship with your grandchildren and ensure that they continue to receive the love, support, and guidance that you provide.

Child Custody Evaluations: What to Expect During a Custody Evaluation and How to Prepare for One

Child custody evaluations are a critical part of the divorce process. They can help determine the best interests of the child and ensure that custody arrangements are fair and appropriate. In this article, we will explore what you can expect during a custody evaluation and provide advice on how to prepare for one.

child custody lawyer

What to Expect During a Child Custody Evaluation

During a custody evaluation, a neutral third-party evaluator will gather information and make a recommendation to the court on the best custody arrangement for the child. The evaluator may use a variety of methods to gather information, including:

  1. Interviews: The evaluator may interview both parents, the child, and other individuals who are involved in the child’s life, such as teachers, doctors, and caregivers.
  2. Observations: The evaluator may observe the interactions between the child and each parent to assess the quality of the relationship and the parenting skills of each parent.
  3. Records review: The evaluator may review school records, medical records, and other relevant documents to gather additional information.

After gathering all the necessary information, the evaluator will make a recommendation to the court regarding the custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation

Preparing for a custody evaluation can be a daunting task, but there are several steps you can take to make the process go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Be cooperative: It’s important to be cooperative and respectful throughout the custody evaluation process. This will show the evaluator that you are willing to work with them and that you are committed to the best interests of the child.
  2. Be prepared: Make sure you are prepared for each meeting with the evaluator. Bring any relevant documents or information that you think will help your case.
  3. Be honest: It’s important, to be honest with the evaluator. Trying to hide information or misrepresenting the facts can harm your case and damage your credibility.
  4. Be respectful: Always be respectful and courteous to the evaluator, even if you disagree with their recommendations. Remember that they are there to help determine the best interests of the child.
  5. Work with a lawyer: It’s important to work with a lawyer who has experience with child custody evaluations. We can provide you with specific advice and guidance based on the details of your case.

Child custody evaluations are an important part of the divorce process, but they can be stressful and intimidating. By understanding what to expect during a custody evaluation and how to prepare for one, you can help ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Remember to be cooperative, prepared, honest, and respectful throughout the process and to work with an experienced lawyer who can provide you with guidance and support.

Difference between sole and joint custody

What is the difference between sole and joint custody?

sole and joint custody

Many have heard the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody”; however often times the meanings and implications of same are misunderstood. Joint custodial arrangements (physical and legal) are certainly more common than sole arrangements and are in most instances preferred by the Courts. In these arrangements, the parties share time with the children and have to consult with one another when making decisions regarding the children. However, a parent may be able to obtain sole custody dependent upon the particular details of their specific situation.

Sole custody means that one parent has exclusive legal and primary custody rights with respect to their minor child or children. The minor child or children primarily reside with the parent with sole physical custody, and that parent does not have to consult the other when making decisions for the children as they have sole legal custody.  A parent usually obtains sole legal and physical custody if the other parent is deemed to be unfit, which sometimes occurs in cases of drug or child abuse. Though a parent may have sole custody, this does not mean, and it is rarely the case, that the other parent does not have visitation rights with the minor child or children.

 Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you are experiencing custodial issues with your partner regarding your children, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office

Co-Parenting: The Transition from Spouses to Former Spouses


Co-Parenting is one of the biggest concerns parents have when going through a divorce and/or separation is how the transition will affect their children. Adjusting to a new schedule and routine is hard on children, and parents should strive to ease as much stress on their children as they can.

A key way of achieving this is to develop a strong and supportive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse. This may not always be easy at first; however, accomplishing same will greatly ease the transition to your new relationship for your children.

It is important to separate the emotions that led to your divorce from the new co-parenting relationship you are forming with your former spouse. Harboring resentments and dredging up past events/feelings will only serve to negatively effect your communication with your former spouse. Your children should be your top priority and holding onto the past does not help to foster a positive environment for them.

No relationship is perfect and certainly disagreements will develop between you and your former spouse despite your best efforts to avoid them. It is helpful to take a step back before engaging in the disagreement to determine if there is a way it can be resolved without further conflict. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, seek outside support to help aid in resolving the conflict. A helpful resource could be co-parenting classes.

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

The Role of the Guardian ad Litem, or Best Interest Attorney

What is the role of the guardian?

If you have children, you have disagreements over co-parenting, especially if you are headed for divorce. If you are already there, adding stepparents or paramours to the mix may lead to actions that affect your children. Many times these situations lead you to court, and to minimize the impact on your children that a high conflict divorce, or a battle over a custody plan may have, a Guardian ad Litem may become involved.

A Guardian ad Litem is an impartial attorney appointed by the court to protect the best interests of a child during custody actions. While many states still use the term “Guardian ad Litem,” in Maryland these advocates are now referred to as Best Interest Attorneys (“BIA”). A BIA may be appointed to your child after the court considers factors under Maryland law, including:

  • The request of one or both parties;
  • Existence of a high level of conflict;
  • Inappropriate adult influence or manipulation;
  • Past or current child abuse or neglect;
  • Past or current mental health problems of the child or party;
  • Special physical, educational, or mental health needs of the child that require investigation or advocacy;
  • Actual or threatened family violence;
  • Alcohol or other substance abuse;
  • Consideration of terminating or suspending parenting time or awarding custody or visitation to a non-parent; or
  • Relocation that substantially reduces the child’s time with a parent, sibling, or both.

The court determines the best interests of the child through weighing a series of factors that can vary based on the relief being sought. It is the job of the Best Interest Attorney to provide the court with information sufficient to make sound decisions as to placing your child in the best environment available. In this sense, the BIA acts as the eyes and ears of the court to ensure decisions made on your child’s behalf are truly in their best interests.

What does the Best Interest Attorney do, exactly?

Though issues related to your child may be discussed with you, the other party, and your attorneys, the BIA reports factual information and makes recommendations to the court after performing a comprehensive, independent investigation. Investigations involve conducting visits to each home in which your child lives, and interviewing your child, the parties, and other witnesses in the home or who have an influence on the child, or who simply possess information to assist the BIA in forming a picture of your child’s life. He or she may also review your child’s medical records and school records. Today, given the vast amount of electronic information available, BIA’s may also conduct criminal background checks or research social media accounts as part of their investigation.

This may seem invasive; however, the BIA’s job is to protect your child’s wellbeing, which requires gaining an accurate picture of them and what he or she may be exposed to on a daily basis.

Additionally, while your child’s wishes are considered, the BIA is not required to adhere to his or her preference when making recommendations, and the court may give deference to your child’s age when making a decision to serve their best interests.

BIA’s are paid but may serve pro bono. Barring any financial hardship, the court will generally require both parties to equally share in the expense beginning with payment of an initial retainer.

If you have a contentious situation involving child custody or visitation and need help, speak with the Annapolis family law attorneys of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC today. Our knowledgeable and caring attorneys are ready to guide you through any family court issue you are experiencing. Please contact the firm or call 410-990-0090 to arrange a consultation.

Determining Parenting Time for De Facto Parents

In 2016, Maryland began recognizing de facto parents by giving them legal standing in custody and visitation decisions. A de facto (“in fact”) parent is a person who plays a significant, parent-like role in a child’s life. A de facto parent has taken on parenting responsibilities for the child and has bonded with the child, and the child depends on his or her relationship with that person. As long as the de facto parent has an intact relationship with the child’s biological or adopted parent or parents, his or her place in the child’s life is secure. However, when the spouses divorce, the de facto parent might feel as if he or she is on shaky ground when it comes to custody and parenting time issues. This also applies to grandparents and other domestic partners as well.

By acknowledging the validity of a de facto parent’s role in the life of the child, Maryland now gives the de facto parent equal footing. De facto parents can share the same rights and responsibilities as biological, legal parents to make decisions about the care, custody, and best interests of the child. They no longer have to prove there are exceptional circumstances, or that the other parent is unfit.

The court decides custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child, regardless of whether you are a biological parent, an adoptive parent, or a de facto parent. If you and your co-parent create a parenting plan that addresses these issues, the courts will likely go along with it. If you cannot create a parenting plan together, then the courts will make the determination for you.

What if there are exceptional circumstances?

If there are exceptional circumstances involved, or if the legal parent could be deemed unfit, Maryland courts may consider the factors listed in McDermott v. Dougherty, 385 Md. 320 (2005) in their determination:

  1. The length of time the child has been away from the biological parent
  2. The age of the child when care was assumed by the third party
  3. The possible emotional effect on the child of a change of custody
  4. The period of time which elapsed before the parent sought to reclaim the child
  5. The nature and strength of the ties between the child and the third-party custodian
  6. The intensity and genuineness of the parent’s desire to have the child
  7. The stability and certainty as to the child’s future in the custody of the parent

Deciding child custody has always been a challenging task. Parents develop deep, strong bonds with their children, and being forced to live apart from them can inspire desperate actions. If you are being denied your rights to parenting time with your children, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney as soon as you can.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC we focus on protecting the best interests of your child. Our Annapolis child custody attorneys are here to represent you and your family in all matters of family law. You can reserve a consultation with a member of our team by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form.