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Maryland Rights for Natural Parents of Minor Children


Under Maryland law, the natural parents of a minor child have certain rights and duties, such as child custody and care. In most cases, these rights and duties expire once the child reaches adulthood. At that point, the child is not a minor and responsible for their self-sufficiency. But so long as the child remains a minor, the parents must care for the child as joint natural guardians.

What is a Joint Natural Guardian?

The definition of a joint natural guardian appears in Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-203. From a legal standpoint, the birth mother and father of a minor child are considered joint natural guardians. This means that both parents:

  • Bear responsibility for the child’s support, care, nurture, welfare and education; and
  • Have the same rights and duties concerning the child.

Unlike certain jurisdictions — where the natural mother has greater parental rights — Maryland law grants equal child custody rights to both parents.  Section 5-203 enables either parent to become the sole natural guardian of a minor child if:

  • The other parent passes away;
  • The other parent deserts the family; or
  • The other parent cannot perform parental duties properly.

Is it Possible to Revoke Natural Guardianship Rights?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-201, it is possible for a Maryland court to revoke natural guardianship rights. Under the law, a court may revoke natural parent rights and appoint a third party guardian if:

  • The natural parents cannot perform parental duties properly; or
  • The child’s interests would be best served in the guardianship of a third party.

Additionally, if the natural parents divorce or live apart, a Maryland court may address the issue of child custody. The court can award legal custody to either parent. Or the court can award joint custody to both parents, including stipulations for visitation, holidays and related concerns.

Do Natural Parents Have a Right to a Child’s Services & Earnings?

As joint natural guardians, the parents are entitled to the services and earnings of a minor child. This parental right expires once the child becomes an adult. Moreover, Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-205 enables one parent can gain exclusive rights to their child’s services and earnings if:

  • That parent has custody of the child; or
  • The other parent dies or deserts the child.

Furthermore, Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-206 even allows one parent to sue for the loss of a minor child’s services and earnings. There are two requirements for a lawsuit under Section 5-206. First, there must be harm or injury caused by:

  • Seduction of the child; or
  • Wrongful or negligent injury to the child.

Second, one parent may have exclusive rights to the minor child. This can happen through sole natural guardianship, if the other parent died or deserted the child. This can also happen through a court order of sole legal custody.

Let Us Help You Today

If you have legal questions about parental rights or natural guardianship in Maryland, it can be immensely beneficial to reach out to a skilled family law attorney. Based in Bel Air, Maryland, the attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 55 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including parental rights and natural guardianship. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.



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