Today, more and more families are adopting alternative family structures. Some families may have multiple parental figures with an active, caring role in the child’s life. This is particularly true when the biological mother and father are divorced. Towson child custody lawyers report on the rights of these third-party parents.
What Is a De Facto Parent?
The highest court in Maryland has recently decided that “de facto parents” may have legally protected custody rights. A “de facto parent” is someone who serves as another parent to the child when the child’s primary parent has consented to the relationship. For example, if a single mother is raising her children along with her own mother (the child’s grandparent), the grandparent may be considered a de facto parent to the grandchild. However, “de facto parent” is a broad term that potentially can describe many types of arrangements. The person must, on a continuing day-to-day basis, fulfill a child’s psychological and physical needs and provide emotional and financial support. The relationship cannot be temporary, and must have begun with the primary parent’s consent and encouragement. Usually, a de facto parent lives with the child and interacts with them on a daily basis, performing parental functions for the child to a significant degree. A parent-child bond must be formed.
Do De Facto Parents Have a Right to Custody and Visitation?
Generally speaking, previously third parties did not have any right to the care and custody of a minor child. Grandparents, siblings, and stepparents have no inherent legal right to custody. In the event of a custody dispute between a primary legal parent and a third party, the legal parent will win custody unless there is a clear reason as to why they should not.
The Test Applied by Courts
In custody disputes between de facto and legal parents, however, the court will first evaluate whether the third party has become the child’s de facto parent. To make this determination, the court will consider the following:
- Whether the biological or adoptive parent consented to and fostered the formation of the third-party’s parent-like relationship with the child.
- Whether the third-party lived with the child.
- Whether the third party assumed obligations of parenthood by taking responsibility for the child’s care, education, and development.
- Whether the third party has been with the child for a significant length of time, such that they established a bonded relationship with the child that is parental in nature.
If the third party meets these requirements, then the court will decide whether to award custody to the third party in the best interests of the child.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Third-Party De Facto Parents Receive Parenting Time
If you have a close bond with a child, and have supported them in many ways for a long period of time, you deserve to be in their life. Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC have experience working out third-party visitation issues and helping de facto parents secure parenting time. To schedule a consultation, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online today.