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Child custody legislation may change in Maryland

In most states, legislation is on the books that dictates who is eligible for the custody of a child after a separation or a divorce. In Maryland, two lawmakers have introduced legislation that would take Maryland's child custody laws into the 21st century. With family dynamics changing more each year, this new legislation could help resolve some problems that are being presented in family courts.

The current law in Maryland says that a child can have only two legal parents. Therefore, stepparents and other non-biological parents do not currently have the right to file for child custody or visitation. The only times that a third parent can be added to a birth certificate is in the case of the death of one of the legal parents or when only a mother is listed on the original certificate. However, there are many cases in which a stepparent or other non-biological parent is so involved in the raising of a child that being permanently separated from that child due to divorce could have serious consequences for both the adult and the child.

According to Maryland law, these "other" parents have no legal rights to even see the children after the ends of marriages. The goal of the new legislation is to give a non-biological parent or stepparent the right to petition for "de facto parental status." This way, the "other" parent could be awarded visitation and custody privileges. Should the legislation pass, each instance brought before the courts would be settled on a case-by-case basis after hearing all the facts from both of the parents petitioning for custody rights.

Child custody cases can be complex, but attorneys who focus on family law can help parents navigate the system. Each situation is different and must be handled individually. A Maryland non-biological parent who is considering a separation or a divorce may want to keep an eye on pending legislation to see whether new possibilities are on the horizon.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "'De facto parenthood'", Feb. 26, 2015

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