Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Maryland

In Aumiller v. Aumiller, 183 Md. App. 71, 84, 959 A.2d 849 (2008) a circuit court denied visitation rights to the paternal grandparents seeking visitation with their two minor grandchildren, against the mother of the children's objection. The children's father was deceased. The grandparents had a limited relationship with the grandchildren when they sought visitation, given that the mother did not allow contact between the grandparents and her children. The circuit court concluded that the grandparents had not demonstrated exceptional circumstances. The Court agreed, finding that there was no evidence of current or future harm to the minor children from the lack of visitation. Id. at 85. The Court rejected that grandparents' argument that the parent's withholding of visitation, as well as the withholding of information about the children's father, constituted exceptional circumstances. We noted that adopting such a view "would render Koshko's threshold requirement superfluous and allow third parties to reach the best interests analysis in virtually every case." Id. at 82. The Court explained that "how the [mother] chooses to inform the children about their father, and who [the mother] allows her children to associate with, are the type of matters within the fundamental rights of parents that Koshko painstakingly sought to protect." Id. at 82-83. The Court explained that although a court "may consider [a mother's] refusal to allow visitation 'unjustified,' and disagree with [the mother's] approach to educating her children about their father, the law presumes these decisions are in the children's best interests absent strong evidence to the contrary." Id. at 85. Regarding the type of evidence of harm that third parties might present to satisfy the exceptional circumstances threshold, we noted that "[e]xpert testimony may be desirable and, frequently, may be necessary." Id. at 85. Because we concluded the grandparents had not satisfied the exceptional circumstances requirement, we affirmed the circuit court's denial of visitation. Id.