Before you and your child move post-divorce, you should always consult with a Maryland relocation attorney. After a divorce or separation, it’s tempting to move away from your ex. Sometimes, you might find a job elsewhere or decide to move closer to your family and friends. However, without advanced planning, you could violate the terms of your child custody and visitation order — causing serious legal problems.

The Basics of Child Custody and Visitation

When you separate or divorce, you typically must divide child custody and set a visitation schedule. There are two types of custody:

  • Legal custody: the right to make important life decisions for your child (concerning health care, education, and religious issues), and
  • Physical custody: the right to spend time with your child and make day-to-day decisions concerning his or her welfare.

Typically, parents negotiate a custody and visitation schedule, which is then incorporated into their divorce order. When one parent relocates — either out-of-state or to another city — the move might complicate this schedule.

Before you relocate, you should carefully review your child custody order. Your order might require that you notify your ex and the court of your move up to 90 days in advance. While the court might waive this notice requirement if you are fleeing abuse or have good cause, you typically must comply with your order’s notice requirements. Contact a Maryland relocation attorney if you need help interpreting your custody order.

Relocation and Modifying a Child Custody Order

A court-approved custody agreement is legally binding. You should never relocate with your child unless your move complies with your existing custody order. If you violate the terms of your custody order, you might consequently face significant civil and criminal penalties (including jail time). Instead, you should ask the court to modify your custody arrangement.

If Both Parties Can Agree, You Can Avoid Litigation

If you and your ex can agree on a new custody and visitation schedule, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and litigation. When parents agree to a custody modification, your Maryland relocation attorney will draft a new agreement and submit it to the court for approval. Once the court signs your new consent order, it becomes legally binding.

If Parties Cannot Agree, the Court Will Become Involved

While most parents attempt to negotiate a revised custody schedule with minimal court involvement, this is sometimes impossible. If negotiations and alternative dispute resolution are unsuccessful, a judge will award custody based on your child’s best interests. This requires weighing a series of factors, including:

  • The child’s age and gender,
  • How a relocation would impact your child’s physical, emotional, and academic well-being,
  • The child’s connection to his or her existing community, school, and other institutions,
  • The geographic distance between the parents’ homes,
  • The strength of each parent-child relationship,
  • How a move would impact the child’s other close familial relationships,
  • Each parent’s work-life balance and ability to care for the child, and
  • The parents’ and the child’s wishes (if age appropriate).

Typically, courts favor child support agreements that encourage stability and maintain healthy relationships with each parent and their extended families.

When you work with a Maryland relocation attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we will carefully assess your situation, listen to your concerns, and build evidence supporting your case. We understand that it can be challenging finding new housing, wrapping up loose ends, and planning your move. Adding a child custody issue to the mix might feel overwhelming. Let us help you safely navigate the family law system during your transition.

Child Support and Relocation

A parent’s duty to support his or her child does not end after a relocation. Out-of-state child support enforcement agencies will help the Maryland Child Support Administration (CSA) collect payments. Regardless of whether you are the custodial or noncustodial parent, make sure you notify the CSA of your move. This will help them ensure prompt and ongoing support payments. And, if your ex relocates in an attempt to avoid court-ordered child support, contact a Maryland relocation attorney or the CSA immediately.

Military Parents and Relocation

Unfortunately, members of the Armed Services frequently relocate. If you or your ex are service members, federal laws, including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), might impact your custody case. Due to the complicated nature of child custody cases involving a military relocation, it’s typically in your best interest to consult with an experienced Maryland relocation attorney. Contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates for more information and a free consultation.

Discuss Your Rights With a Maryland Relocation Attorney

A Maryland relocation attorney will help protect you and your child’s interests. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we value the important bond between a parent and a child. We will work with you to craft both a creative and fair custody agreement that continues to foster this relationship after a relocation. We also help clients with child support enforcement and modification matters. Contact us for more information and a confidential evaluation of your case.