Court Authorized to Grant Custody When Unmarried Parents Still Living Together

Holbrook vs. Newell, 2017 Md. App. LEXIS 109 (2/1/17)

(No Md. App. cite as of 3/5/17)

The circuit court erred in dismissing a custody petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; the court had jurisdiction to resolve a child custody dispute between unmarried parents who were living together because the State's interest in protecting the welfare of a child did not depend on the parents' present or former marital status.

The Court of Special Appeals:

“The case before us is not a divorce proceeding but we can conceive of no reason why the State's interest in protecting the welfare of a child should depend upon the present or former marital status of the parents. Therefore, we think that it is appropriate to extend Ricketts holding to cases in which the parents are not married. See also C. Callahan et al., MARYLAND FAMILY LAW § 5-57 (5th Ed. 2011) (Ricketts stands for the proposition "that a trial judge is not limited to exercising its equity jurisdiction to determine custody only to those situations where the parents are living separate and apart.").”

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