When a Custody Order is entered by the Court, it is binding upon both parents until and unless the Custody Order is modified. Although Custody Orders address issues like physical and legal custody on a long-term basis, it is also true that no Custody Order is “permanent.” This means that custody and child support-related issues are always subject to review and modification by the Court.
In order to have a Custody Order modified, the parent seeking the modification needs to show that there has been a “material change in circumstances.” A material change in circumstances is a change which materially affects the welfare of the child. If no such change has occurred, the Court will deny a request to change custody as the material change in circumstances burden has not been met. For example, a parent generally cannot modify custody simply because they don’t like the terms of the Custody Order.
One situation which commonly occurs and may warrant a modification of custody is the relocation of one parent. When the Court fashions a Custody Order and the visitation schedule contained therein, the Court takes into consideration the physical location of each parent. If, after the entry of the Custody Order, one parent relocates to a different area, this can affect the welfare of the child and constitute a material change in circumstances.
After a Custody Order is entered, it is extremely important that parents consider what effects their relocation, if any, would have on the current custody arrangement. If the relocation is local and does not significantly change the distance from the other parent’s house, it likely would not necessitate a modification of custody. However, if one parent relocates to another State, it will almost always warrant a modification of custody because the welfare of the child is materially affected by the relocation. Other factors to consider when contemplating relocation include any changes to the child’s schooling, disruption to the child’s social and extracurricular interests and distance from other family members.
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In short, it is extremely important to consider the impacts that relocation may have on your custody arrangement before making the major decision to relocate. An attorney can help advise you on the possible consequences of the relocation and how to address those issues. Robert Greenberg, Esq. and the law firm of Greenberg Legal Group LLC have successfully represented many clients in custody modification cases, including those involving relocation issues. Our firm is located in Annapolis, Maryland and practices in Courts throughout the State of Maryland. Please contact our office at (410) 650-4242 for further assistance.