Up until now, Maryland law did not permit the non-biological, and non-adopotive "parent" (de facto parent) of a child to obtain custody or have visitation with the child when the family was broken apart by separation or divorce unless the de facto parent could prove that the biological or adoptive parent of the child was unfit.
In a landmark decision, the highest court in Maryland, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that de facto parents now have standing to contest custody or visitation and need not show parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances before a trial court can apply a best interests of the child analysis.
This decision overrules the Court’s previous decision in Janice M. v. Margaret K., decided approximately 8 years ago. The high court determined that its holding in Janice M. contravened the “universally accepted concept” that children “need good relationships with parental figures and they need them to be stable.”
While unanimous in their recognition of de facto parenthood, the Judges were split 4-3 on a specific four-factor test for courts to determine if an individual qualifies as a de facto parent. The factors require
- that the biological or adoptive parent “consented to, and fostered” the formation and establishment of the “parent-like relationship with the child;”
- that the de facto parent and child lived together in the same household;
- that the de facto parent “assumed obligations of parenthood,” such as the child’s care, education and development without expecting payment; and
- that the de facto parent was in the parental role for enough time to establish “with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature,” the high court said.
Source: The Daily Record, Steve Lash, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer July 8, 2016