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Family Law Bills in the 2017 Legislative Session

By: Ferrier R. Stillman

The 2017 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly was a fairly quiet session with respect to family law.  For the most part, this session was more notable for legislation that failed, rather than for what the General Assembly actually passed.

The stalled legislation that perhaps got the most press was the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act. That bill would have provided for termination of a father’s rights when a court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child was conceived by an act of nonconsensual, sexual relations against the mother and that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child. As the law currently stands, a woman in Maryland impregnated as the result of rape may find herself in a custody dispute with the rapist. Worse yet, the rapist could obtain visitation with, or even custody of, the child.  Legislation on this issue has been introduced in nine separate sessions; however, despite increasing support each year, the bill never made it out of committee.

The General Assembly did, however, pass legislation extending the statute of limitation on civil actions arising out of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was a minor.  A victim of sexual abuse as a child now has twenty years after reaching the age of majority, or until he or she turns 38, to file suit for damages against the perpetrator.

Other family law bills that passed this term include the repeal of a statute that prevented the use of a domestic violence protective order in a divorce hearing to prove the grounds for divorce. And, the definition of the term “health insurance,” in the context of child support calculations, now includes not only medical insurance, but also dental and vision insurance and prescription drug coverage. 

If you have any questions about this article or other family law issues, please contact Ferrier R. Stillman at 410.752.9731 or email or another member of the Tydings family law department to answer your questions or for a consultation or meeting in either the Baltimore or Towson offices.

Please note that effective July 1, the Baltimore office’s new address will be One East Pratt Street, Suite 901, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. Phone numbers and email addresses will remain the same. Our Towson office address will remain the same at 502 Washington Avenue, Suite 610, Towson, Maryland 21204.

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