Families in the United States are unique and diverse. Between blended families, same-sex couples, and single-parent households, the typical family is not quite so typical anymore. In July 2016, the Maryland Court of Appeals recognized individuals who, though they may not be biological or adoptive, still have the same rights and responsibilities as caregivers.
De facto parents are individuals who assumed the consistent role of the parent daily, fostering a child’s physical and emotional growth with care and affection for an extended period. They are the primary financial support and caregiver for the child in their care. Those who meet the established criteria for de facto parenting have the right to seek or deny custody or visitation of the minor children they care for. De facto parenting keeps children in the care of a trusted custodian and prevents them from becoming a ward of the state.
Individuals must satisfy four separate criteria to petition for de facto parental rights:
- The legal parent has consented to and fostered the relationship between the child and the de facto petitioner
- The petitioner has lived with the child
- The petitioner has assumed significant parental duties for the child
- The petitioner and child have formed a parent-child bond
In Maryland, prior to July 2016, grandparents, stepparents, and others playing a significant role in raising a child were grouped together as third-parties. They had very few rights to pursue visitation or custody of children, even if they had a significant part in raising them. Before recognizing de facto parents, Maryland only considered biological and adoptive parents as having custodial or visitation rights.
In Maryland, de facto parents now have the right to:
- Receive notice of court hearings regarding the child in their care
- Participate in decisions regarding the child’s placement and care
- Present evidence to promote the best interests of the child in their care
Before Maryland recognized de facto parenting, third-parties were required to either prove the biological parents were unfit to care for the child or recognize other extenuating circumstances that made sense for the third-party to seek custody. Because these were often difficult to prove, many responsible and loving guardians were prevented from obtaining custody of the children in their care. While they may have been the parental figure feeding, clothing, and nurturing the child from day to day, they had no rights or say in that child’s care or placement. De facto parents are not required to prove the biological parents are unfit, provided they meet the other required criteria. Now, they can enjoy the rights of other parents and guardians, empowering them to give the children they love the best start possible.
Baltimore County Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Loving Caregivers Become De Facto Parents
To determine if you qualify for de facto parental rights or to discuss another family law matter with a Baltimore County child custody lawyer, schedule a free consultation with Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. Call 443-589-0150 or contact us online to get started. With locations in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we represent clients in and around Baltimore, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Parkton, Pikesville, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.