Third-Party Custody in Howard County

Which third parties have custodial rights?

As long as a child's biological parents are deemed fit to fulfill the responsibilities of providing for their child and are willing to care for the child, they will receive custody. Third parties, however, can be granted custody when those factors are not present.

Third parties who may be granted custody rights are:

  • Grandparents of the child
  • Close relatives of the parents
  • Stepparents
  • Partners of the child's biological parents
  • Adults whom the child has been living with for a lengthy period of time


When considering custody of a child by a third party, the court may review several factors, such as:

  • Child's previous relationship to the person
  • Adult's financial and occupational background
  • Relationship between the person and the child's biological parents
  • Instances of physical and / or psychological abuse

Serving the Best Interests of the Child

Before the court makes a determination of child custody, it will examine various factors that relate to the child's best interests. If custody by a third party is in the best interests of the child, the court will issue an order granting custody.

Other factors that will be assessed include:

  • Wishes of the child
  • Wishes of the parents
  • Child's relationship with the third party
  • Child's adjustment to school, home, and community
  • Length of time the child has lived in a stable and loving home
  • Non-parent's ability to provide for child

"De Facto" Parent Visitation Rights

As third parties, the people seeking rights to a child may receive limited visitation if they are considered "de facto" parents.

To be considered a "de facto" parent, the third party must be able to prove that:

  • The legal parent consented to a relationship between the third party and child
  • The third party lived with the child
  • The third party performed parenting functions for the child
  • A parent-child bond was forged


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Grandparents' Rights

Counsel From a Howard County Family Law Attorney

In some cases, grandparents may be granted visitation or even custody rights to protect the best interests of a child. Maryland statutes address this issue by saying that a court can grant "reasonable visitation" rights to a grandparent as long as that arrangement would be in the best interest of the child. Call The Law Office of Lisa M. Goldblatt for legal guidance with your case.

Recognizing a Child's Need to Visit Grandparents

Children often cultivate relationships with their grandparents that are beneficial, and children can suffer emotional harm if these relationships were taken away. The state of Maryland allows grandparents to receive visitation rights in specific circumstances.

Some of the reasons for permitting visitation with grandparents are:

  • The child's parents are divorced
  • The child's parents have annulled their marriage
  • One or both of the child's parents are deceased

Assessing a Request for Visitation

When the court is deciding whether visitation rights should be granted, the status of the parents' marriage is the most important consideration. If parents are divorced or deceased, the court will consider a number of factors to determine whether the child would benefit from visitation with the grandparents.

Some of the factors that are considered include:

  • Wishes and preferences of the child
  • Needs of the child
  • Past and present relationship of the child with grandparents
  • Whether visitation would impact the child's focus at school and activities
  • Emotional and physical health of the child and grandparents

Pursuing Custody in Ellicott City

Biological parents may be declared unfit for a range of reasons. The court will often award custody to a third-party family member, such as a grandparent, if the biological parents are engaged in habitual illegal drug use or are financially insolvent. In cases in which the biological parents are not providing a safe environment for the child because they are engaging in criminal activity or have dangerous weapons within reach, child custody may be granted to the third party.