On November 22, the Maryland Court of Appeals declared that the “child’s interests” test prevailed in terminating custody in a legal or biological parent, over the previously used “unfit parent” standard. The court held that parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances were not a prerequisite finding in terminating the custodial rights of a parent.
But, when it comes to custody of a legal/biological parent over a non-parent, is best interests enough?
Should a wealthier non-parent with interests in the child’s life and upbringing be able to terminate the parent’s rights to the child based on best interests without needing to show unfitness or a higher standard to overcome?
The result of this standard may endanger parental rights to care for and enjoy custody of their child- the commonly recognized right of a parent to raise his or her child without state interference.
But on the other hand, consistent with the opinion of the court of appeals, the child’s best interests are always the paramount consideration regarding disputes that arise in such situations. This is true with regard to visitation of non-parents, as well as child support standards and modifications.