The death of a Maryland custodial parent can be a difficult time for those involved. However, it can also be difficult to determine who the child will live with. Depending on the situation, a child may go to live with the noncustodial parent, a family member or a third party. When there is no one suitable, these children could become wards of the state.
Unless the other parent has a history of abuse or an illness that prevents them from being able to provide proper care for the child, they may be the first choice. In order for the parent to seek custody, however, they must establish paternity. This can be done through a simple DNA test if they did not sign the child's birth certificate. They can also opt to sign an acknowledgement of paternity, which then must be filed in court.
If the other parent cannot properly raise a child for any reason, other relatives or third parties may step in. For example, grandparents can potentially act as a guardian, though aunts, uncles and adult cousins may also have the ability to take custody. Godparents or neighbors who have an established relationship with the child could also be chosen to act as a guardian for the child if they are able and willing.
When these types of unfortunate situations happen, courts will make their decisions based on the best interests of the child. An attorney representing a party who would like to become the child's guardian can provide advocacy during subsequent court proceedings and demonstrate the bond that already exists between the client and the child.