How Does Maryland Family Law Address Child Visitation Rights?
Maryland family law typically grants birth parents the right to child visitation. This power stems from the classification of the birth parents as a child’s “natural guardians.” Though it is typically reserved for cases where the parents are divorced or unmarried and live separately. And there are situations in which Maryland denies child visitation rights to a parent.
Do Parents Have a Right to Child Visitation in Maryland?
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-203, birth parents are considered the joint natural guardians of a minor child. This section provides that a child’s natural guardians:
- Are individually and collectively responsible for the child’s care, education, nurture, support, and welfare; and
- Possess the same duties and responsibilities with respect to the child.
Section 5-203 does enable one parent to become the sole natural guardian of a minor child if:
- The other parent dies;
- The other parent abandons the family; or
- The other parent is incapable of satisfying parental duties.
If a minor child’s natural guardians are divorced or unmarried and live apart, then:
- The Maryland state courts may award custody or visitation rights to either parent; and
- Neither parent is considered to have superior custody or visitation rights, outside of specific exceptions.
Ultimately, Maryland family law imposes a duty to safeguard the best interests of children. Before awarding a parent the right to child custody or visitation — even if that parent is the child’s natural guardian — the state courts must verify that it serves the child’s best interests.
Does Maryland Prevent Parents from Child Visitation?
Generally speaking, yes, Maryland family law does prevent certain parents from obtaining child visitation rights. There are two principal situations in which this occurs.
First, under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 9-101, the state courts may deny visitation rights in cases of likely abuse or neglect. The Maryland courts will deny visitation rights if there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
The parent in question has abused or neglected the child; or
Abuse or neglect is likely to occur if the parent in question obtains visitation rights.
Second, under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 9-101.2, the state courts may deny visitation rights in cases of murder. The Maryland courts will deny visitation rights if there is clear and convincing evidence indicating that one parent:
Committed first- or second-degree in Maryland of the other parent, a child of that parent, or any family member residing in the same household; or
Committed a substantially similar crime against the same types of victims in another jurisdiction that would be considered first- or second-degree in Maryland.
Despite the restrictions above, it is still possible for a parent who committed abuse, neglect, or murder to obtain visitation rights. This is only possible if the Maryland courts determine that such a visitation arrangement will protect the child’s physiological, psychological, and emotional safety.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about child visitation rights, we can help. The dedicated Bel Air child visitation lawyers at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered are prepared to assist you today.