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Maryland has a rebuttal presumption that children are best suited when in the care of their natural parents.

However, this presumption is one that can be overcome by showing that it is not in the best interest of the child(ren) that they live and be raised by their biological parents.


a. Maryland child custody cases are decided by the best interest of the child(ren).

Therefore, a Court will award custody to the person(s) the Judge believes is best suited to provide the best emotional, financial, and physical care for the child(ren).

In a child custody case, when one party is the biological parent or adoptive parent and the other is a non party (called third party), the court looks for exceptional circumstances and finding there are exceptional circumstances the Judge then looks to see what is in the best interest of the child(ren).

This was how all third party child custody cases were decided until July 2016, when the Court of Appeals decided Conover v. Conover.


a. In Conover v. Conover, the Court decided that they should recognize a special consideration for 3rd party parents where certain conditions are met and meeting these specific conditions, the Court would consider these persons defacto parents and decide what is in the best interest of the child(ren).

To be considered a defacto parent in a child custody case, a test must be met. Under this test, a third-party seeking de facto parent status in a child custody case bears the burden of proving the following when petitioning for access to a minor child:

  1. that the biological or adoptive parent consented to, and fostered, the petitioner’s formation and establishment of a parent-like relationship with the child;
  2. that the petitioner and the child lived together in the same household;
  3. that the petitioner assumed obligations of parenthood by taking significant responsibility for the child’s care, education and development, including contributing towards the child’s support, without expectation of financial compensation; and
  4. that the petitioner has been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature.

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Legal Disclaimer: The above information is created for general information purposes only. As such, the information and contents should not be deemed formal legal advice; nor does the information and contents create a lawyer/client relationship between any party and the editors/creators”. We encourage persons accessing the Newsletter to seek the advice of counsel to discuss their specific legal issues/situation.

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