Modifications of custody arrangements might be needed for many reasons. In Maryland, the party seeking a modification must show that there has been a material change in circumstances to modify a Custody Order. There is no “list” of situations that would constitute a material change in circumstances. Instead, each case is assessed by the Court on its individual merits to determine if a material change in circumstances has occurred.
One common reason people look for changes in parenting time is that the other parent isn’t using the access that they have under a Court Order. For instance, if a Court Order gives one parent every other weekend, but for whatever reason, that parent is not using the time they have under the Court Order, the custodial parent may seek to modify the Order. In this case, the custodial parent would typically want the court order to reflect what’s happening. Note, this can work the other way too. If a parent gets every other weekend under the Custody Order, but the two parties have been doing a week-on-week-off schedule, then the parent who has every other weekend will want the Court Order to reflect this arrangement.
Another situation that arises quite often is when a parent relocates or moves. Since you can’t have the children going back and forth every other week from different states, a modification is generally required. In some cases, an emergency hearing may be necessary if one parent threatens to relocate with the children to another State without proper custodial arrangements being put into place.
In addition, if one parent has been absent from the decision-making process or refuses to communicate with the other parent, it can give rise to a modification of legal custody as well. If the parents have joint legal custody, a continued failure by one parent to work with the other parent to make decisions in the best interests of the children may be grounds to modify legal custody. It is important that an appropriate legal custody arrangement be in place so that proper decisions can be made on behalf of the children.
When Can A Parent Legally Petition The Maryland Courts For A Change In Parenting Time Or Legal Decision-Making? Is There A Waiting Time After An Initial Custody Decision Has Been Made?
The legal standard for changes in parenting time or legal decision-making rights requires evidence of a material change in circumstances. There is no hard rule under Maryland statutes or case law which gives a definitive wait time. However, absent a sudden or singular event (i.e. long distance relocation), a consistent pattern of change over 12 – 18 months may be a sufficient amount of time.
In cases where you must demonstrate that the current day-to-day reality does not reflect the court order, showing that this pattern has occurred over an extended period of time is essential. For example, consider that a parent might have the child scheduled to be with them every other weekend but goes two months without seeing them. At that point, there may not enough of a track record to show that there has been a material change. In contrast, if the parent has not seen the child in over a year and has been otherwise uninvolved in the child’s life, this could constitute a material change in circumstances.
As mentioned before, there isn’t a specific or exclusive list of events that constitute a material change in circumstances. Each case presents different facts and the Court – and your attorney – will analyze those facts specific to your case. For this reason, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced attorney before deciding whether to petition the Court for a modification of custody.
For more information on Family Law In Maryland, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (410) 650-4242 today.