top of page
  • Writer's pictureLaurie M. Wasserman

Maryland Court's Ruling on Parental Acceptance and Child Protection

In honor of Pride Month, we wanted to discuss a new opinion issued by the Appellate Court of Maryland, C.M. v. J.M., wherein the court addressed whether or not a parent’s refusal to accept their child’s sexual orientation amounted to “mental injury” and thus abuse of a child in order to obtain a protective order to protect the child from further abuse. The court held that the parent’s actions did amount to a mental injury of a child and a protective order was granted. This is an important opinion for family law practitioners because the court seeks to define “mental injury” which is not always as easy to identify as physical abuse.



The case was on appeal after the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County entered a final protective order on behalf of a 12-year-old child to protect him from his father, on the grounds that his father mentally abused him regarding the child’s sexual orientation. The Appellate Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.


In this case, the 12-year-old child identified as gay (the older child, who was not subject of the protective order is a trans male, which is also relevant). The Father of the children refused to acknowledge the older child’s gender identity and refused to call the child by the child’s preferred name. The child began engaging in self-harm, and Father’s response to the child, via text, was that Father’s “Christian beliefs are being attacked” and that Mother’s support of the child’s gender identity was “BS manipulations.”


When the younger child came out as gay, Father texted the child “you are being heavily manipulated and influenced by your Mother and sister.” Note: by “sister” Father was referring to his transgender male child. He continued, “Please do not allow these demons you are surrounded by influence you.”


When the younger child came out to Father, Father told him he was not gay, and that his Christian beliefs prevented him from agreeing with any LGBTQ agenda. Father texted the older child pictures of transgender males post top-surgery calling it “radical elective double mastectomy performed on healthy girls who have been sucked into a cult by groomer schools and online influencers.” Father continued to send the child offensive texts, memes, and photos that rejected the child’s gender identity.


Father also sent Mother a barrage of text messages, mostly biblical references, telling Mother the end of the world is near, that Mother must repent, and that Mother has “been warned.”


Child Protective Services performed an investigation, and Father disclosed to the investigator that it is because of Mother’s influence that his children believe they are transgender and gay and that his faith does not agree with the LGBT+ community. Father admitted that the only text messages he has sent the eldest child were about the child’s gender identity, and not about anything else. Father admitted that he had called the police when Mother brought the children to a Pride Parade, called a Crisis Hotline, and Legal Aid.


The children were interviewed by the Judge, and the youngest child acknowledged that he was scared of Father, and worried that Father does not believe him about his sexual identity. The Judge stated that Father’s response to the child’s sexual identity was “doing a lot of damage” to the child, and “it would be damaging, mentally, if” the judge did not grant a protective order. The court found that Father “repeatedly communicated in person and through text homophobic comments and religious beliefs, causing mental injury to” the youngest child. A protective order was granted, which allowed for access between Father and the youngest child on the youngest child’s terms.


On appeal, Father argued (among other things), that because he did not intend to harm the child, there was insufficient evidence to find that he caused mental injury to the child. The court rejected Father’s argument and held that Father’s actions in and of themselves were intentional, with reckless disregard as to the consequences of those actions.


This is an important case for family law attorneys, because the Appellate Court of Maryland carefully outlined the history of interviewing children as part of custody, and protective order cases, and offers guidance about when and how children can be interviewed by a Judge. Also, this is an important case because although the CPS report did not indicate physical abuse, the Court still found mental abuse of a child occurred. Finally, it is significant that the court granted a protective order that included contact between the child and the respondent. The Appellate Court explained that such relief is proper, so long as the remedy outlined by the Court protects the person to be protected from further abuse. In this case, because it was a mental injury of a child, the court found it proper that access on the child’s terms would allow for future protection.


If you have any questions about this opinion, or other family law matters, please contact us at info@wassermanlawoffice.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.


Read next:

Disclaimer: Opinions and conclusions in these blog posts are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. For legal advice, you should directly consult a lawyer to discuss the specific facts of your matter.


By reading this blog, you acknowledge that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author.


Any links provided are for informational purposes only and by doing so, the author does not adopt or incorporate the contents. The author is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and they cannot be repurposed without permission.


Comments


bottom of page