Unfit Parent Laws in Maryland


Divorce is a difficult time, and it takes its toll on people. Unfortunately, there are many examples of good relationships gone wrong and the trauma that results.

There are, however, times when these ugly scenarios have beautiful outcomes. One such instance is when you can free yourself or your children from a dangerous situation.

Sometimes, that protection must extend beyond the divorce. For example, you may need to issue a protective order against your former spouse, and in extreme scenarios, it may be necessary to have their parental rights revoked.

Legally, a dangerous parent is called an "unfit" parent. However, the definition of an unfit parent and the process for removing their rights varies from state to state.

This article will explore the definition of an unfit parent in Maryland and discuss how to block parental privileges.

Maryland's Definition of an Unfit Parent

Being legally "unfit" goes far beyond being a poor communicator or lax disciplinarian. Unfit parents are a direct danger to their children.

Unfit parents may be:

  • Physically abusive
  • Sexually abusive
  • Abandoning, such as frequently disappearing or leaving the kids alone
  • Neglectful, such as not keeping the kids fed, clothed, or properly hygienic

Removing an Unfit Parent's Rights in Maryland

Parents are always free to revoke their legal parenthood, but it is sometimes necessary to remove these rights forcibly.

The state can do this independently. For example, Maryland can step in if a parent is abusive or neglectful. It can take the children away, putting them in foster care or with another legal guardian.

Former spouses, family members, or concerned friends can also petition the court to remove an unfit parent's rights. In many such scenarios, it's assumed that the person filing the claim will take responsibility for the child or have a plan for the child's care.

If you are concerned about your children's safety around your spouse, you can fold an unfit parent claim into your divorce. The court will consider this claim alongside any others related to the marriage. If it sees evidence that corroborates your claim, it can begin removing your spouse's parental rights.

How to Prove a Father Unfit in Maryland

If you believe a father is unfit to care for his child, you can petition the court to terminate his parental rights. You must provide evidence of the father's behavior to prove that the father is unsuitable. This evidence can include police reports, medical records, and testimony from witnesses.

The court will consider all the evidence before deciding whether to terminate the father's parental rights. If the court finds that the father is unfit, he can no longer contact his child.

It is important to note that terminating a parent's parental rights is a serious matter. The court will only do so if it believes it is in the child's best interests. Suppose you are considering filing a petition to terminate a parent's parental rights. In that case, you should speak with our child custody attorney to discuss your specific case.

Interventions for Unfit Parents in Maryland

Depending on the situation, the state may create an action plan for an unfit parent who sincerely wants to do better. It can order substance abuse rehabilitation, mental health therapy, etc. The program will be tailored to the individual. There are no "one-size-fits-all" plans in the state.

When the state believes the parent is beyond help or unwilling to cooperate, it may be forced to remove the legal parent's rights altogether.

Other Ways to Lose Parental Rights in Maryland

Protective orders, which can be issued as part of your divorce, can place restrictions on dangerous parents. For example, these parents can lose visitation, forced to stay away from the kids completely. But on the other hand, perhaps the order will allow restricted interaction with the kids, such as supervised visitation.

Maryland's protective orders can also remove a parent's rights before the child is even born. It's fair to assume that the fetus can also suffer harm when a pregnant woman suffers abuse. The state can treat this fetus as another person who requires protection. Using a protective order, the condition can preemptively remove the abusive parent's rights, keeping them away from the child after birth.

If you have concerns about your child's other parent, contact our office for a free consultation. Call us at (410) 593-0040 or use our online contact form.

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