Parental Rights in Maryland

Maryland State Law and Parental Rights

At Risk

Maryland does not have a state statute that explicitly defines and protects parental rights as fundamental rights.

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Maryland Courts and Parental Rights

"Strict Scrutiny" Applied to Parental Rights

  • McDermott v. Dougherty, 869 A.2d 751, 808-9 (Md. 2005) Adopted a balancing test where "the constitutional right [of parents] is the ultimate determinative factor; and only if the parents are unfit or extraordinary circumstances exist is the 'best interest of the child' test to be considered."
  • Koshko v. Haining, 921 A.2d 171, 186-87 (Md. 2007) held that because "the grant or modification of visitation involves a lesser degree of intrusion on the fundamental right to parent than the assignment of custody," such grants or modifications "require rigorous scrutiny," id. at 186; notwithstanding Troxel, the court noted that it typically "reserve[es] strict scrutiny review only for cases where fundamental rights have suffered "significant interference," but because there was "significant interference" with a fundamental right in this particular case, the court employed strict scrutiny, (id. at 187.)

However, this precedent is subject to change.