A divorce within a blended family can result in unique child custody issues as stepparents, guardians, or other non-biological parents seek to continue a relationship with their soon to be ex-spouse’s children. Awarding custody to non-biological parents is not typical and often requires significant legal assistance to prove a non-traditional custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
Adoptive Parent Rights
Non-biological parents who have legally adopted a child have the same legal rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. There is no legal distinction between adoptive and biological parents in divorce proceedings. If a biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated, they no longer have the legal right to custody of the child.
Best Interests of the Child
Family courts will put the best interest of the child first in determining child custody disputes. While courts typically give biological parents the presumption of custody, this is not always the case. When the biological parent is unfit mentally or physically to care for the child, a court may grant involuntary termination of parental rights.
Some of the most common circumstances leading to involuntary termination of parental rights and an award of custody to a non-biological parent occur when it would be a safety risk for the child to remain with the biological parent.
This can happen when the biological parent has:
- Been imprisoned or convicted of a felony or act of violence
- Deserted or abandoned the child
- Committed sexual or physical abuse
- A long term mental or physical illness
- An addiction to drug or alcohol
- Engaged in other types of child neglect
By filing a child custody action against the biological parent on the basis of mental or physically incapacity, a non-biological can seek primary custody of the child.
Previous Relationship History
Most courts examine the history of the relationship between both parents and the child in determining whether a true parent-child relationship exists. Factors including the length of time the individual was in the child’s life, the intent of the parties to raise the child together, the role played by the non-biological parent, and the overall family dynamic are important in custody matters.
Consent of the Biological Parent
When the biological parent is present and able to assume custody, they generally have the right to approve any visitation or shared custody arrangements. Divorcing couples should remember the child should never be used as pawns or as leverage in divorce settlement proceedings.
Protecting Rights of Non-Biological Parents
Given the presumption that a child should remain with a biological parent when possible, it can be an uphill legal battle to obtain visitation or partial custody of a non-biological child. To navigate the complexities of child custody litigation, individuals should obtain the assistance of an experienced Baltimore child custody lawyer who can aggressively protect their parental rights.
Baltimore Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Protect the Rights of Non-Biological Parents
If you are a non-biological parent fighting for custody of your child, you do not have to fight alone. At Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, our Baltimore child custody lawyers handle a wide range of family law matters including those relating to child custody, visitation, divorce, alimony, and child support. With offices conveniently located in Towson and Hunt Valley, Maryland, we proudly serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Parkton, Pikesville, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County. To schedule a free initial confidential consultation with an experienced Baltimore child custody lawyer today, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online.