Maryland Grandparent Custody & Visitation - What is Parental Unfitness?

On August 29, 2017, the highest court in Maryland decided a grandparent custody case, Burak v. Burak, and finally defined what makes parents unfit to have custody of their child(ren).

While custody and visitation are, on the surface, two different things because custody involves with whom a child lives and visitation involves the timesharing schedule, the same factors are considered when deciding both.

This holds true for grandparent custody and visitation cases as well.

Until Burak v. Burak, “unfitness” in the context of grandparent custody and visitation was undefined, leaving much discretion to the trial judge (and, so, inconsistency among judges).

September 9, 2017 Maryland Association for Justice Family Law Section's Family Law Legislative Update

Lindsay Parvis is pleased to present a family law legislative update for the Maryland Association for Justice's Family Law Section's breakfast on September 9, 2017 from 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.!

Find out what divorce, domestic violence, and other family law related laws go into effect October 1, 2017. Learn what 2017 family law legislative efforts stalled in the General Assembly and what may lie ahead in the 2018 Session.

For more information and to register:


Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law. You can follow her on Linked InFacebook, and LindsayParvis.com and subscribe to her Newsletter for discussion, news, and developments in Maryland family law.

New Law on Health Insurance & Maryland Child Support Awards

Effective October 1, 2017, a new law will go into effect, expanding the definition of “health insurance” for child support purposes.  HB926 passed the Senate unanimously and almost so in the House (126-1), and goes into law if not vetoed by the Governor by May 1, 2017 (which is not anticipated).

Currently, when determining child support under Family Law Article §12-204, the child support guidelines calculation shall include “[a]ny actual cost of providing health insurance coverage for a child for whom the parents are jointly and severally responsible…and shall be divided by the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes.” “Health insurance” is not now defined.  HB926 revises Family Law Article §12-201, to define “health insurance” to include medical, dental, prescription drug, and vision insurances.

2017 Maryland Pet Visitation Bill Crated

In Maryland divorce cases, pets acquired during the marriage are considered personal property.  This means that current law entitles the court to determine ownership and nothing more.  Not matters more suited to a member of the family, such as custody, visitation, financial support, or extraordinary expenses.  To many, a pet is a beloved, constant companion and family member.  The law has not kept up with the reality of the relationships between pets and their caregivers.

There are signs of progress.  In 2011, the domestic violence law changed, empowering the court to award “temporary possession of any pet” in temporary and final protective orders.  Reference to “possession”, instead of “custody”, is consistent with treatment of pets as property (as compared with “custody” used in reference to children).  While a step in the right direction, this relief is limited to domestic violence cases and unavailable (for now) in divorce.

Lindsay Parvis Published in Maryland Family Law Advocate

The April 2017 edition of the Maryland Family Law Advocate, a publication of the MSBA Family & Juvenile Law Section, features an article authored by Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esquire, and updated by Lindsay Parvis.  The article, Montgomery County: Practice and Procedure, provides an overview of the Montgomery County Circuit Court Family law procedures.  The article is reprinted here with permission of the FJLS.

Fewer Firearms for Those Convicted of Domestic Violence Crimes

While not overtly a domestic violence bill, HB294 revises Public Safety Article §5-101(b-1)(2)(i) so a person, who receives a probation before judgment for second degree assault that is a “domestically related crime” (as defined in Criminal Procedure Article §6-233), is disqualified from owning a firearm.  Domestically related crimes generally are crimes against a person who would be eligible for a domestic violence protective order or who had a sexual relationship with the perpetrator within 12 months of the crime.  Under existing domestic violence law (which are civil matters), the respondent/alleged abuser must relinquish any firearms while the protective order is in place.  HB294 applies to criminal cases.  Effective October 1, 2017, persons convicted of crimes arising from domestic violence will be prevented, under certain circumstances, from owning firearms.

This bill was developed as part of the Governor’s Family Violence Council.

For more information on HB294, view the bill HERE and video of the bill hearing HERE.

Lindsay Parvis is a member of the Legislative Committee of the Family & Juvenile Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, seeking to improve family law for families, attorneys, and the courts.

Domestic Violence Law Gets Minor - But Needed - Update

Currently, Maryland law (Family Law Article §7-301.1) makes an Interim, Temporary, or Final Protective Order granted in a domestic violence proceeding inadmissible evidence in other family law matters, such as divorce, custody, and custody modification cases. 

Additionally, §7-103.1 prevents a court from considering compliance with a protective order as grounds for a limited or absolute divorce.  This means (in theory, though not in practice as far as my experience goes) that a person who stays away from and ceases cohabitation with a spouse pursuant to a year-long protective order could stop the court from considering this a 12-month separation or 12-month desertion. 

Effective October 1, 2017, §7-103.1 will no longer be the law.  The sponsor’s and proponents’ reasoning behind HB293 is that §7-103.1 has become obsolete and may streamline or even save victims of domestic violence from relitigating the abuse.

License Suspension For Non-Payment of Child Support Refined by 2017 Maryland General Assembly

Effective October 1, 2017, changes go into effect regarding the Office of Child Support Enforcement's right to suspend different types of licenses of payors who fall behind on child support.  Specifically, these changes apply to driver’s licenses as well as business, occupation, and professional licenses. 

On driver’s licenses: 

Drivers can lose their driver's licenses for failure to pay child support.  This can apply when someone fails to pay any child support or when someone does not pay the full amount of child support.  The new law distinguishes between noncommercial and commercial driver’s licenses; current law does not.  Currently, the law allows the office of child support enforcement to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration/MVA of drivers who fall behind on their child support by 60 days' worth of payments.  This new law will set the timing at noncommercial drivers who accumulate 60 days or more of arrears and commercial drivers who accumulate 120 days or more of back child support.

What’s in a Name?

Volume 4

Since my last post on this subject, in the 2017 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed into law an update to existing law on restoration to a former name in a divorce.  HB793:  Family Law – Divorce – Restoration of Former Name revises Family Law Article §7-105, to allow a party to request restoration of a former name up to 18 months after the Judgment of Absolute Divorce/divorce decree is granted, without requiring the formal name change process of Maryland Rule 15-901. 

Currently, a spouse who took on the other party’s name during the marriage may be restored to any former name if the party no longer wishes to use the name, the name change is requested in the divorce, and the request is not for any illegal, fraudulent, or immoral purpose.  Under existing law, this request must be made and granted at the time of the divorce and entry of the Judgment of Absolute divorce; not after. 

HB793 extends the time to 18 months from the date of the divorce.  Under current and the new law, the request must be made by the party seeking the name change for her- or himself.  So, one spouse may not request a name change for the other.  The remaining requirements of §7-105 will still apply.

This change in the law goes into effect October 1, 2017.

Lindsay Parvis is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP.  She represents parties in contested and uncontested divorce and other family law matters.

Inns of Court

Kevin G. Hessler is a member of the Montgomery County Maryland American Inn of Court.  The American Inns of Court actively involve more than 25,000 attorneys, legal scholars, judges (state, federal, and administrative), and law students. Membership is composed of the following categories:

Masters of the Bench — judges, experienced lawyers, and law professors

Barristers — lawyers with some experience who do not meet the minimum requirements for Masters

Associates — lawyers who do not meet the minimum requirement for Barristers

Pupils — law students.

Kevin, has reached the level of Master of the Bench. 

The American Inns of Court is an association of legal professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence. As stated on their website, “In this collegial environment, outside the courtroom and pressure of daily practice, members discuss legal practice, principles, and methods. Academicians, specialized practitioners, and complementing generalists provide a mix of skill, theory, experience, and passion. This fluid, side-by-side approach allows seasoned judges and attorneys to help shape students and newer lawyers with practical guidance in serving the law and seeking justice.”

Click here to read more about the Vision and Mission for the Inns of Court.


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