Bel Air, MD asked in Family Law for Maryland

Q: Under Maryland Family Law Section 5-801, what constitutes a responsible person? Is there anything specific?

Child’s other parent leaves them regularly to go bowling with an unknown teenager.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: 13 years or oder is the only specificity contained in the law. "Responsible" is meant to be vague, since there are some very mature and capable 13 year olds, as well as many irresponsible, careless and inappropriate adults. It also changes with the circumstances. For instance, you might not send a 13 year old alone with a toddler to go on rides at a crowded carnival late at night, but you might have them babysit for two hours a home while you go out to dinner. A 13 year old (or anyone of any age) who has a known history and propensity for committing crimes, acting recklessly, drinking alcohol or doing drugs, etc. would likely be considered not to be a responsible person, while a 13 year old who never misses school, gets good grades, and has shown a maturty to handle situations without fear and is attentive and careful with children, would be a good babysitter in the home. If the child being watched has special needs, medical issues, or behavioral issues that require a caretaker who can take appropriate actions (like basic medical care, emotional coping tools, and appropriate physical strength to manage physical outburts like seizures or other conditions), then most 13 year olds would probably lack those skills. If the parent exercising custody or visitation during these absences is really never present, and you feel that there is no "parenting" going on during their visitation--then you might argue that it is not in the best interests of the child to be at that parent's household since they are not, in fact, exercising any visitation. However, merely because a parent goes out for a few hours and provides a babysitter does not mean they lose visitation rights with their children.

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