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5 situations that may allow for nonparent child custody

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Child Custody |

While Maryland presumes that a child’s biological parents are their natural custodians, this idea is rebuttable in certain situations. In those instances, courts can award custody to nonparents, such as the child’s grandparents or relatives, if they seek custody.

Common situations where a nonparent can petition for a child’s custody are the following:

The biological parent’s imprisonment

When a biological parent is incarcerated, nonparents can petition for the child’s custody. The court can then award either temporary or permanent custody if it determines that the incarcerated parent is unfit to care for the child and that awarding custody to the petitioning nonparent is in the child’s best interests.

The biological parent’s substance addiction

When a biological parent struggles with substance addiction, the court may determine that the parent is unable to provide a safe and stable environment for their child, which can lead to a grant of nonparent custody. In such cases, a relative, such as a grandparent, another family member or even a close family friend, may petition the court for custody.

The biological parent’s mental incapacity

Mental incapacity includes a range of issues, such as severe mental illness or cognitive impairments that prevent a parent from fulfilling their parental duties. If a biological parent is mentally incapacitated and unable to care for their child, a court may grant custody to a nonparent to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.

The biological parent’s abuse or neglect

In cases where a biological parent is guilty of neglect or abuse, be it through physical, emotional or sexual abuse, the court has the authority to remove the child from that parent’s care to protect the child’s safety and welfare. Accordingly, the court may place the child in the custody of a nonparent.

The biological parents’ passing

In tragic circumstances such as the death of biological parents, courts may transfer custody to a nonparent to secure a stable and caring environment for the child. The court will look into family, relatives and family friends who have formed a significant bond with the child and are willing to take on the responsibility of guardianship.

Generally, if a biological parent is unfit to raise their own child, a nonparent may seek custody and visitation rights. Nonetheless, seeking custody as a nonparent is not as easy as it seems. It is crucial to gather and present facts and evidence that demonstrate to the court that a nonparent raising them is in the child’s best interests.