In order to modify physical or legal custody, the party seeking the modification must file a Complaint or Petition with the Court. Much like any other case, the filing of your Complaint opens a case with the Court and starts the litigation process. In your Complaint, you will want to articulate what has changed since the original Court Order and establish that these details warrant modifying the Order. It is important that you also explain to the Court what physical or legal custody arrangements you believe are in the best interests of the children in light of the change in circumstances. Remember, the Complaint is often the first document the Court reads when reviewing your case, so it is very important that this document is well-written and clear.
Once you file your Complaint with the Court, the legal process will take its course. Initially, you will have to serve the other party with papers, they will have time to respond and the case will proceed in normal course.
Can Parents Agree To A Change Of Custody Without The Court?
In many cases, the parents can agree to modify their physical and legal custody arrangement at any time by creating a new, written agreement. However, the caveat is that the agreement must be signed, in writing and incorporated into a new Court Order. If the new, written agreement is not incorporated into a Court Order, the previous Court Order will remain legally binding until a new Court Order is issued. Therefore, verbal or other “informal” agreements are not as effective as having a written agreement incorporated into a new Court Order.
Far too commonly, parents have discussions believing they might agree but suddenly disagree on the same matter the next day. That is why it is essential to have the Court create a legally enforceable document to enforce your custodial rights.
How Long Does It Generally Take For The Court To Decide On Whether Or Not To Grant A Request To Modify Custody In Maryland?
It typically takes 6 to 12 months for a Court to decide on a request to change or modify physical or legal custody. This time period may vary depending on a number of different factors. These factors include whether or not the parties will engage in discovery (the information gathering process), whether other services are requested such as a custody evaluation and the overall scheduling availability of the Court.
What Factors Will The Judge Consider When Deciding Whether Or Not To Modify Custody?
When deciding whether or not to modify custody, the court will undertake a two-step analysis. The first step is determining whether there has been a material change in circumstances. In some cases, the Court might not believe there has been a significant change in circumstances, meaning that a modification is not warranted and the original Order remains untouched.
One common misconception is that parents can request to modify a Court Order simply because they do not agree with the Order or disagreements arise between the parties. However, general dissatisfaction or disagreement with the Order will not be sufficient to show a material change in circumstances. Indeed, the Court imposes this requirement to prevent people who are unhappy with the outcome of a case from getting a “do-over.” Instead, the party requesting the modification must show that there has been a significant change in the facts of the case since the last Court Order was entered.
If the Court is satisfied that there has been a material change in circumstances, the Court will proceed to the second step of its analysis: examining the children’s best interests in light of these new circumstances. For example, if the change in circumstances involves the relocation of one parent, the physical custody schedule will need to be reviewed. This can ensure that the new access schedule is as equal in parenting time as possible and addresses the children’s best interests in light of the parent’s relocation.
To summarize, the first step in a custody modification case is looking at whether there has been a material change in circumstances. If the Court is satisfied that a material change in circumstances has occurred, the Court will proceed by doing a renewed examination of what physical and legal custody schedule in the children’s best interests.
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.