Maryland Court Rules That a De Facto Parent Has Rights, Too
Maryland’s Highest Court Overturns 2008 Decision Regarding the Parental Rights of a De Facto Parent
(Columbia, MD) A de facto parent is a person considered by the court to have assumed the role of parent to a non-biological child. To qualify as a de facto parent, the person must prove that they have lived with, raised and provided for the child on a consistent, day-to-day basis for a substantial period of time.
On July 7th, 2016, Maryland’s highest court overturned a 2008 decision and issued a unanimous ruling stating that non-biological parents who live with and help raise children do, in fact, have parental rights. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that in child custody and visitation cases, family court judges should consider whether a person is a de facto parent.
Who is Considered a De Facto Parent?
According to The Washington Post, examples of a de facto parent can include:
- The partner of a lesbian woman who conceived a child through artificial insemination;
- The partner of a gay man who adopted a child from a country that does not allow joint adoption by same-sex couples;
- A straight man who has raised a child with a woman for years without formal adoption (and vice versa).
Impact on the LGBT Community
Last week’s ruling is particularly significant for the LGBT community; advocates view the court’s ruling as a huge win and a correction of injustice. Prior to the court’s 2008 decision, non-biological parents who lived with and helped raise children were generally able to maintain some parental rights in the State of Maryland even their relationship with the children’s biological parent ended. However, the 2008 decision, which ruled that these “third party” parents should be treated the same as any other third parties seeking custody, proved to be devastating to many same-sex couples.
In last week’s case, a lesbian woman now identifying as a transgender man, was found to have the parental standing to seek visitation rights to a child conceived by her lesbian ex-spouse via artificial insemination before they were legally married. Despite the fact that he never legally adopted the child during the marriage, the court established that the plaintiff was a de facto parent to the child.
In the majority opinion, Judge Sally Adkins wrote: “Gays and lesbians are particularly ‘ill-served by rigid definitions of parenthood’…When gay or lesbian relationships end, at least one member will find itself in a court system ill-prepared to recognize its existence and to formulate rules to resolve its disputes.”
For Professional Advice About Child Custody, Schedule Free Consultation with Howard County Divorce Laywer Fred L. Coover, Esq.
Howard County Family Law Attorney Fred L. Coover, Esquire of Coover Law Firm, LLC in Columbia, MD has been helping families navigate through difficult situations for over 30 years. If you need professional, experienced legal guidance in the areas of separation & divorce, child support, child custody, and/or visitation, call Coover Law Firm, LLC today at (410) 995-1100 to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.
Coover Law Firm, LLC serves clients in Howard County, Maryland and beyond, including Columbia MD, Ellicott City MD, Elkridge MD, Clarksville MD, Glenwood MD, Glenelg MD, Sykesville MD and more.