As a Maryland Child Custody lawyer, I am often asked questions about grandparents’ visitation. Custodial parents in Maryland who are subject to orders allowing grandparent visitation may have an open invitation to modify those orders.
This follows a Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision in Barret vs. Ayres decided in June 2009. The decision reversed a Carrol County Circuit Court Judge who ruled against a mother with custody. The Circuit Court had ruled that there had not been a sufficient “change in circumstances” to modify a 2006 consent order for grandparents visitation.
“ We have watched the balance power swing decidedly in favor of parents who refuse to allow grandparent visitation with children.
The child’s father has been in a coma since 2004. Mother cited her deteriorating relationship with grandparents as grounds for terminating visitation. On appeal, it was decided that Mother’s judgment concerning the best interest of her child was sufficient to constitute a “change of circumstances” and she should be allowed to obtain a modified order.
As both parent and grandparent, I can empathize with both sides of these disputes. Since 2007, we have watched the balance power swing decidedly in favor of parents who refuse to allow grandparent visitation with children. The Courts have relied on constitutional principles to take back rights granted to grandparents by state legislatures.
Unless a parent is unfit or there are or “exceptional circumstances demonstrating current or future detriment to the child absent visitation”, the courts will not interfere with a custodial parents judgment.
It is important to understand what this case did not decide. It did not decide when a parent is unfit or what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”. If an order has already been entered based on one of these two circumstances, it did not decide when the order could be modified. Finally the decision does not justify “self help”.
In other words, if there is an outstanding order, a parent cannot simply ignore the order without obtaining a modification.