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Can a Third Party Be Granted Child Custody in Maryland?
In a dispute between a parent and a non-parent third party, there is a presumption that the best interest of the child is served by awarding custody to the parent.
This presumption can only be rebutted if: (1) the parent is unfit; or (2) exceptional circumstances exist so that custody with the parent would not be in the child's best interest.
A third party seeking custody must rebut the parent presumption by a preponderance of the evidence (a more likely than not or more than 50% standard).
When a third party is granted custody, it is always subject to modification based on a material change in circumstances.
A parent's custodial rights are not terminated by the award of custody to a third party, nor is the parent precluded from seeking custody in the future. The parent may also be granted the right to visit and/or communicate with the child as part of a third party custody award.
Maryland Family Law recognizes eight different grounds for divorce. Adultery, voluntary separation (for at least 12 months), imprisonment (with a sentence of at least three years and at least 12 months already served), and living separate and apart (for at least two years), are among some of the reasons. For the court to grant a divorce based upon any of these grounds, they must be proved in court through evidence and testimony.
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