Relocating with Children
September 25, 2019
After your divorce has been finalized and a child custody order has been entered, a change in life circumstances could mean you have the opportunity to move to a new area for a new job. Or, in some circumstances, a parent realizes he/she needs to move to a different city to care for an elderly relative. If you share joint physical custody of your minor child with the child’s other parent, it is important to know you cannot simply make the decision to relocate without going through steps required under Maryland law. More specifically, you will need to request a modification of your child custody order. Then, you must provide notice of your plans to relocate.
We want to provide you with more detailed information about the process for relocating with children in Maryland.
Modification of a Child Custody Order
Under Maryland law, in order to relocate with your child, you must modify existing child custody arrangements. To modify custody, you must file a complaint to modify custody. Child custody modifications require the parent seeking modification to provide two things:
- There has been a material change in circumstances; and
- Modification is in the best interest of the child.
After a divorce, a material change in circumstances often is required in order to modify any existing order. Courts consider a material change in circumstances to be a change that affects the welfare of the child. A material change in circumstances that only impacts the parent’s welfare (but not the child’s) will not be enough. In most cases, a custodial parent’s planned move or relocation will constitute a material change in circumstances given that the move would affect the child’s welfare.
In Maryland, as in many other states, child custody is decided based on what is in the best interest of the child. Accordingly, once a parent proves there has been a material change in circumstances sufficient to justify a modification, that parent then will need to be able to show the modification is in the best interest of the child. This is true whether the initial child custody order was determined by the court, or the parents reached an agreement concerning custody in a parenting plan.
Notice of Relocation
In addition to going through the steps to modify child custody in order to relocate, the parent seeking to relocate also may need to provide official notice. Many child custody orders in Maryland include a requirement that either parent who plans to relocate must provide advance written notice of the plan to relocate at least 90 days prior to the relocation to the court, to the other parent, or to both parties. Such notice can be required whether the parent plans to relocate within or outside the state of Maryland.
In situations where a 90-day notice is not possible, the parent seeking to relocate may need to prove the relocation was necessary due to financial or other extenuating circumstances according to Maryland law, or that notice was properly given after the parent learned relocating was necessary. If you are unsure about notice requirements for relocation, you should speak with a Maryland child custody lawyer about your situation.