Court for Cecil County Case No. 07-C-14-000158
Graeff, Kehoe, Moylan, Charles E., Jr., (Senior Judge,
Specially Assigned) JJ.
issue in this appeal is whether a circuit court has
jurisdiction to resolve a child custody dispute between
unmarried parents when the parents are living together. In
Ricketts v. Ricketts, 393 Md. 479, 501 (2006), the
Court of Appeals held that a court had such jurisdiction in a
divorce action even if the parents were sharing the same
household and even if the court declined to grant a divorce.
We will extend the holding of Ricketts to cases
where the parents are unmarried and reverse a judgment of the
Circuit Court for Cecil County.
Ricky Holbrook and Hannah Newell are the biological parents
of K., a minor child. In January 2015, the circuit court
entered a consent order which, in addition to other relief,
awarded the parties joint custody of K. In September 2015,
Mr. Holbrook filed a motion to modify the custody provisions
of the earlier order. While that motion was pending, Mr.
Holbrook filed an ex parte request for custody, in which he
asserted that Ms. Newell was unable to care for K., and that
K. had been residing exclusively with him for several months
because Ms. Newell did not have a fixed address. The circuit
court held a hearing on this petition on May 16, 2016.
first witness at the hearing was Ms. Newell's mother. She
testified that Ms. Newell was unable to care adequately for
K. because of a psychological condition. In his own
testimony, Mr. Holbrook stated that K. and Ms. Newell were
residing with him so that he could care for K., and so that
K. and her mother would have a place to live while Ms. Newell
seeks treatment for her health problems. The circuit court
then recessed. When proceedings resumed, the following
THE COURT: Returning on the record of Hannah Newell versus
Ricky James Holbrook, Junior . . . . We are conducting an
expedited hearing on Pendente Lite Custody.
And the last testimony that I heard from Mr. Holbrook is that
the parties are residing together.
Is that correct, [appellant's counsel]?
[Appellant's Counsel]: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay, I don't believe that the Court has
jurisdiction to continue a hearing in this matter.
I'm going to dismiss the petition.
Holbrook filed a motion for reconsideration, in which he
presented the same arguments as he does to this Court. The