How Does Maryland Family Law Address Nonconsensual Adoptions?
Maryland family law generally recognizes a parent’s right to maintain custody over their children. In most circumstances, a parent must abandon their child or provide consent in order for an adoption to happen. In other situations, however, it is possible for the Maryland courts to place a child for adoption without parental consent. Though state law provides strict controls on their process, ensuring that the nonconsensual adoption occurs in the best interests of the child.
Requirements for Nonconsensual Adoptions
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-3B-22, there are three required elements for a nonconsensual adoption.
First, the child must reside in the custody of someone other than their actual parent for a period of at least one year. Before this one-year period, it is not possible for the Maryland courts to order a nonconsensual adoption.
Second, the child must have significant feelings for and emotional ties to the adoptive parent. This type of bond is necessary to ensure that the nonconsensual adoption will be in the best interests of the child.
Third, Section 5-3B-22 requires the presence of an aggravating factor that indicates a lack of consideration for the child’s best interests. These factors arise if the child’s actual parent:
- Failed to maintain meaningful contact with the child, despite the opportunity to do so;
- Failed to contribute to the child’s physical wellbeing and care, despite the opportunity to do so;
- Subjected the child to chronic abuse or neglect, sex crimes, or torture;
- Received a conviction for abusing any offspring;
- Committed a crime of violence against the child, other minor offspring, or the child’s other parent; or
- Lost parental rights to the child’s sibling, if it did not result from consent.
Before granting a nonconsensual adoption, the Maryland courts must ensure satisfaction of all three conditions above. In terminating an actual parent’s rights by granting a nonconsensual adoption, the state courts must also:
- Prioritize the health and safety of the child to be adopted; and
- Examine an investigative report required by Maryland law.
Investigative Reports into Nonconsensual Adoptions
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-3B-16, an investigative report is required before the state courts may grant a nonconsensual adoption. Prepared by an investigator or a child placement agency, this report must provide insight into the child’s:
- Feelings for and emotional ties to their new family, including parents, siblings, and other individuals who could affect the child’s best interests; and
- Adjustment to their new community, home, and school.
If the investigative report confirms that adoption will be in the child’s best interests, the Maryland courts may grant a nonconsensual adoption that satisfies all other factors.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you have legal questions about the adoption process in Maryland, it can be tremendously advantageous to consult with a seasoned family law attorney. The Bel Air adoption attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including various types of adoptions. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.