Rockville Grandparents’ Rights Lawyer

Whether by choice or necessity, more grandparents are playing a role in raising their grandchildren. When parents become unfit to care for their children, or in a divorce, or if one or both parents die, it may be appropriate and necessary for a grandparent to initiate a custody action.

In other cases, if parents have denied a grandparent contact with the children, especially when there is a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship, the grandparent could seek court-ordered visitation. If you are a grandparent seeking custody or visitation, an experienced family attorney can help. A Rockville grandparents’ rights lawyer understands the importance of your role in your grandchildren’s lives and will work to protect your legal rights.

Grandparent Visitation

Under Maryland Code Annotated Family Law Article §9-102, grandparents may request visitation with their grandchildren at any time. However, in the Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, the Court made it clear that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children in whatever manner they choose and determine who their children spend time with. If a parent decides to prohibit contact between their children and the grandparents, that decision will be binding except under limited circumstances.

When a grandparent seeks visitation with a grandchild over the parents’ objection, the grandparents must prove to a court that the parents or ‘unfit’ or that exceptional circumstances demonstrate that the child will suffer if they are denied contact with the grandparent. Since proving harm to a child under that standard can be challenging, the assistance of an experienced grandparents’ rights attorney could be invaluable.

Grandparent Custody

Due to the presumption that parents have a right to raise their children without interference from others, a grandparent seeking custody of a grandchild has a high burden of proof. Only under extraordinary circumstances, like substance abuse dependency, mental illness, physical incapacity, neglect, or abuse, could a parent be declared unfit to care for their children.

If a grandparent believes such circumstances exist and petitions a court for custody, a judge must prioritize the child’s best interests. Some of the factors a court must consider are:

  • The sincerity of the parents’ and grandparent’s desire to have custody of the child
  • The effect on the child of a change in custody
  • The child’s age when the grandparent took custody
  • The child, grandparent’s, and parent’s physical and mental health
  • The grandparents’ ability to provide a stable living environment for the child
  • The grandparent’s relationship with the parents

Under Maryland law, grandparents have the same legal standing to seek custody of a child as any other person, such as an aunt, cousin, or even an unrelated third party. A Rockville grandparents’ visitation lawyer can assess a grandparents’ case and determine whether, based on the factors, custody to the grandparent is a legally viable option.

The Legal Process for Seeking Custody or Visitation

Grandparents requesting custody of or visitation with their grandchildren must file a petition with the court. The petition must state why it would be in the children’s best interest to be in the care of, or spend time with, their grandparent. The court may appoint a ‘best interest’ attorney to be the children’s legal advocate.

In any grandparent custody or visitation case, the grandparents have the ‘burden of proof’ (the obligation to provide sufficient evidence) to demonstrate their legal right to court-ordered time with their grandchildren. An experienced grandparents’ rights attorney can gather evidence to meet this burden of proof and represent the grandparents in court.

The Benefits of a Rockville Grandparents’ Rights Attorney

Since the constitutional presumption that fit parents may decide who has contact with their children, grandparents may face an uphill battle when they seek custody or visitation with their grandchildren. However, there are circumstances when it is in a grandchild’s best interest to have an ongoing relationship with their grandparents.

If you a grandparent concerned about the care your grandchildren are receiving from their parents or you have been denied all contact with them, one of our team’s experienced attorneys can help. A Rockville grandparents’ rights lawyer understands the importance of your role in your grandchildren’s lives and can work to preserve that relationship. Call today to schedule a consultation.