We get frequent inquiries regarding grandparents’ rights in Maryland. Under Maryland law, there is no statute giving grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren. Parents have the right to raise their children how they wish and, if they believe that visiting a grandparents is harmful to the child or not in his or her best interest, then the parent has the right to deny access to the grandparent. However, there are ways that Grandparents can provide, or look out for, the interests of their grandchildren, especially in the event that the parent is not believed to be making the best long-term decisions for the children.
Maryland Law Features the Best Interests of the Child Standard
Notably, under a ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court, Maryland laws presume that parents have an inherent right to raise their child in accordance with their own wishes. This means that, in practice, a child’s parent may be able to deny grandparents access to their grandkids. Under Maryland state law, grandparents have no statutory rights to custody or to visitation.
In Maryland, all child custody and child visitation issues are resolved under the state’s legal standard of what is in the best interests of the child. Should a custody or visitation case make it to court, the judge must find a resolution that is in the best interests of the child. Should the circumstances warrant it, grandparents may be able to prove that awarding them custody or visitation is in the best interests of the child. This is a high bar to clear — but it can certainly be done in some cases. As an example, if a parent has developed a serious drug addiction — this is a growing problem in Maryland, caused by the opioid epidemic — a grandparent may be able to assert custodial rights over the objections of the child’s parent.
Alternative Ways to Be Involved with your Grandchildren
Our Maryland family law attorneys are knowledgeable, compassionate advocates for our clients. We always take the time to understand the situation of the grandparents, so that we can offer them effective legal guidance that is narrowly tailored to meet their needs. In many cases, grandparents can best assert their interests in establishing a positive, ongoing relationship with their grandchildren by working in a collaborative manner with the child’s parent. Collaborative efforts are often best for grandparents because the child’s parents have far stronger legal rights.
Grandparents Can Protect a Grandchild’s Future
Although, this is a sad and distressing situation for a grandparent who wants to participate in their grandchildren’s lives, there are other ways that the grandparent can show their love and be acknowledged by the child when he or she comes of age.
Even if a grandparent cannot visit with a grandchild on a consistent basis, a grandparent can give the child a headstart in life by providing some monetary benefits that the parents may not be able to provide. Some options are:
- Savings Account – name the grandchild as a payable on death beneficiary
- Certificates of Deposit – name the child as a beneficiary
- Brokerage Account
- UGMAs/UTMAs – these are accounts held in the grandparent’s name but held for the benefit of a minor
- 529 Education Savings Plans
- 529 Prepaid Tuition Plans
A Trust is an Excellent Way to Provide for Grandchildren
Another great way to assist a grandchild as they age, is to provide for a grandchild by way of a Trust. The child could receive benefits from the Trust during your lifetime, such as paying for private school tuition, extracurricular expenses such as sports fees or music lessons, college tuition and expenses, deposit on a first home or to help pay for a wedding. The monies held in Trust could also become available only upon the death of the grandparent, such that the child receives monetary assistance at certain ages and in certain amounts long after the grandparent is gone. What a gift this would be to a grandchild who was told by their parents that the grandparents chose not to be involved in their lives. Along with this type of estate planning instrument, a grandparent could write a letter or film a video to let the child know how much they meant to them and that they were always thinking of the child even though they could not see them in person.