Maryland courts have instituted a new opportunity for family, friends, or third parties to seek custody/access to children. Previously, third parties were forced to prove unfitness of the parents and/or exceptional circumstances in order to gain any rights to non-biological children.
This begs the question, what if a person has played a substantial role in the life of a child, but cannot show that the parents are unfit, or demonstrate exceptional circumstances?
De facto parent is the answer!
Our firm recently handled a complex de facto parent case in which we represented a non-biological third party against two biological parents. To make matters more difficult, the client had gone almost a year without seeing the children because one parent was upset that the client had initiated the action.
The firm set a path to success for the client beginning with a clear understanding of the law. We made it clear to the client that we would have to prove the following:
(1) that the legal parent consented to and fostered the relationship, (2) that the child and the legal parent and the de facto parent must have lived with the child, (3) that the de facto parent must have performed parental functions for the child to a significant degree and (4) that a parent-child bond was forged between the child and the de facto parent.
The firm took a comprehensive global plan to coordinate with the client. Years of evidence were evaluated, witnesses were interviewed, and numerous meetings/discussions with the client occurred to hone the strategy.
From the client’s perspective, the trial could not come fast enough. We were prepared to provide a comprehensive presentation to the Judge. We felt confident that our hard work would pay off.
Trial arrived and it was clear that the hard work would pay off. The client’s testimony was seamless and persuasive. When the Judge rendered his decision, I recall his statement that we had “no doubt” persuaded the court that the de facto elements were met. I also recall the tears of joy from the client once the ruling had been made. He was now on equal footing with the biological parents.
It was a great day for both the client and myself.
If you or someone you know is interested in a de facto cases, do not hesitate to call us at (443) 709-9999 to sit down and discuss your matter.