Unfit Parent Laws in Maryland


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

There are, however, times when these ugly scenarios have wonderful 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. 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. The definition of an unfit parent and the process for removing their rights varies from state to state.

In this article, we will explore the definition of an unfit parent in Maryland, and we will discuss how you can block their 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 always have the freedom to revoke their legal parenthood, but it is sometimes necessary to remove these rights forcibly.

The state can do this independently. If a parent is found to be abusive or neglectful, Maryland can step in. 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 they 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.

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, and so forth. The plan 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 completely remove the legal parent’s rights.

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. These parents can lose visitation, forced to stay away from the kids completely. Perhaps the order will allow some 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. When a pregnant woman suffers abuse, it’s fair to assume that the fetus can suffer harm as well. The state can treat this fetus as another person who requires protection. Using a protective order, the state can remove the abusive parent’s rights preemptively, keeping them away from the child after it is born.

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

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