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Relocation Laws and Child Custody in Maryland

When a couple decides to separate, one partner usually moves out of the marital home. They will typically be in their own residence for a significant amount of time before one or both spouses decide to file for divorce. At least one person must be a Maryland resident when filing for divorce. If the grounds for divorce happened in the state, the spouse making the divorce request is the only one that needs to live in Maryland. If the grounds occurred outside of the state, one or both partners must have lived in Maryland for a minimum of six months before the divorce complaint has been filed. The complaint must be filed in the respective local circuit court.

Each partner will receive a copy of the divorce paperwork. They should also both be present during divorce proceedings. After a divorce has been granted, a parent may decide to move to another city, state or country with their children. This can affect everyone in the family. Children will have to make new friends at a different school. Relatives may no longer be in close contact and both parents may have to adjust their child visitation schedules.

Custody arrangements will also be determined in most instances. A parent may be given physical and legal custody, joint custody, split custody or temporary custody of their children. People who have physical custody can make many decisions about their child’s daily life. Parents with legal custody are allowed to choose their child’s non-emergency medical care, education and religion.

Can A Partner Who Has Legal Custody of a Child Relocate?

Relocation will vary on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the court order that the judge gives out after the divorce and custody matter. There are many reasons why a move may be considered. A parent may wish to relocate to live closer to family members, change employment, wish to remarry or simply want a fresh start. This is reasonable; however, it may take interactions with the court in order to get the approval necessary for the relocation of the child.

Generally, with these cases the respective family court and the parent who is not moving must be notified of the move in writing within at least 90 days from the intended relocation. Exceptions to this rule are if the move is due to financial issues or other pertinent reasons and as much advance notice as possible is provided and if the parent who is moving can prove to the court that such an advance notice could make them, or their children open to possible abuse.

The new address, phone number and reason for the move should be included in the written notice. The notice will need to be sent via certified mail with return receipt requested to the parent who is not moving. Terms of any agreement made regarding the move that are made by both parents must be supplied to the respective court.

A parent can request to have the move blocked if they so choose. That person will have 20 days from when the notice was first received to file a petition. A judge will then set a hearing date that will happen sooner rather than later. At the hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to present their case and provide reasoning and evidence to support their positions. The judge will listen to all information before deciding whether or not to approve the move.

Will A Judge Permit Relocation?

The child’s best interests will be taken into consideration. A judge will also want to confirm that neither parent has an unfair advantage over the other. Some of the factors that will be reviewed are:

  • The desires of each parent.
  • If there has been a history of desertion or abandonment by one or both parents.
  • Any possible influences that may exist in either parent’s home.
  • The age, gender, health and general well-being of the child in question.
  • The environment and current surroundings for the child.
  • The child’s desires, if they are old enough and of sound mind to form their own opinion.
  • Any prior visitation or child custody agreements that were made.
  • The existing relationships that the child has with their parents.
  • The parents’ character and reputation.
  • Any possible disruption of the existing child visitation arrangement that may develop as a result of the move.
  • How long the child would be or has been separated from each parent.
  • Visitation opportunities.
  • Each parent’s home and how far away they are from one another.
  • Future opportunities for the child.
  • The possibility of parental relationships being preserved.
  • If one parent has physical and legal custody of the child in question or if both parents share those responsibilities.

A change of custody may be requested by the parent who is not relocating. They may argue that the proposed move would drastically affect the current child visitation schedule. It could impact vacation and holiday plans and time spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives. If this request is granted, both sides will need to work together to create or revise a visitation schedule that reflects that modification. The judge will need to determine whether or not a material change in circumstances exists that would necessitate the custody change.

Fines and/or a prison sentence may be assigned to a parent who has been given custody of their child and does not receive court approval before moving out of state. A judge could even adjust the custodial order. The non-custodial guardian may be given more time with their child or other benefits as the court deems appropriate.

Parents may choose to make their own revisions to any existing child custody or visitation schedules. A judge will review those modifications and will make any necessary changes if the agreement is unfair or if both sides cannot reach a decision. The best interests of the affected children must be taken into consideration when such alterations are made.

If you or your former partner is moving out of state, you probably have more than a few questions. That’s okay. We can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our trained professionals will listen to your concerns and provide suggestions as to your next steps. We can even assist with some of the paperwork if you want. Divorce can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Our goal is to help you back on track again. Things won’t be the same, but at least you can move forward and look ahead to better days once that chapter of your life has finally been closed.