The laws surrounding a third party requesting visitation rights with a child is constantly in flux in states across the nation. Most states have some sort of grandparent visitation statute, all of which have been interpreted differently for individual cases. In Maryland, cases have been brought before the court and later appealed when the sibling sought further legal action.
In 2014, the Maryland Court of Appeals reviewed a sibling visitation case in which an adult sibling wished to have rights to visit with her younger siblings against her parents’ wishes. Initially, the smaller court ruled in her favor, deciding it was appropriate for her to continue a relationship with her siblings. The court decided that since she was still a minor, it would be detrimental to the older sister to not have contact. However, there was no ruling on the effect of lack of visitation on the younger siblings and she became an adult during the process.
In this case, the older sister had become a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) and became estranged from her parents. She had been declared a CINA when her father did not allow her to return to his home with his new wife and two small children. According to the older sister, her mother had committed suicide and her father was abusive.
The Court of Special Appeals reversed the initial court ruling, as they did not find that the older sister had shown exceptional circumstances. The sister petitioned the Court of Appeals to review the decision. The court considered whether Maryland case law for a CINA who wanted visitation with their siblings had to show exceptional circumstances before being granted visitation, in which the court ruled yes.
While the older sister saw herself as someone with rights to her siblings, the court found she was a third party as the biological father was in custody of the children with no proof of an abusive situation. While she was related to the children, she does not have constitutionally protected parental rights as a non-parent. The court concluded that absent of proven exceptional circumstances, constitutional rights are the determining factor in these cases.
The older sister’s case has been sent back to the lower court to consider whether there was a case to give sibling visitation and to refocus their decision on how the visitation affects the younger siblings. While this case is still up for debate, siblings may have a strong case for visitation. When younger children are deeply affected by the lack of visitation, have been in each other’s lives for long periods of time, or when a parent has passed away leaving the child in the custody of a non-relative, a sibling may have a case for visitation rights.
There are currently no federal laws that grant siblings inherent visitation rights. The visiting sibling must have the legal permission of the parents to visit with their siblings or they are in violation of the law. Permission includes when a sibling successfully petitions the state for visitation or is granted visitation time by the custodial parent.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles Represent Clients in Complex Custody and Visitation Cases
We keep the interests of the minor child in mind during our legal strategies. Our team of Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles have years of experience ensuring the best results of a divorce proceeding for minor children and have sought visitation rights for grandparents in an array of circumstances. Contact us online today or call us at 443-589-0150 to find out your options in continuing a relationship with your siblings. With offices in Hunt Valley, Pikesville and Towson, we serve clients throughout Maryland area including Cokeysville, Lutherville, Riderwood, Glen Arm, Stevenson, Pikesville, Towson and other localities.