Law governing parental relocation with children in Maryland

The child’s best interest is always paramount.

A difficult situation for all involved is when a parent with custody of a child seeks to move away with the child. This can make visitation difficult or impossible for the other parent. Of course, the parents' competing interests can make parental relocations volatile and emotional.

Reasons for move-aways

Some common reasons for a custodial parent to wish to move out of town, out of Maryland or even out of the country include:

  • New job opportunity
  • New relationship or marriage
  • Support network from extended family
  • Health

Impact on child

Naturally, a move could impact the child significantly. In addition to having less contact with the other parent, there may also be impact on other relationships like those with extended family, neighbors and friends as well as with professionals like doctors, school, child care and church connections.

Custody modification

In such a situation, there may need to be a change of custody or a major revision to a visitation schedule. Visitation may become difficult logistically and financially over a long distance. If the parents cannot negotiate a solution, the matter will have to be decided by a judge.

Notice of move

In the original court proceeding in which custody or visitation was ordered, the court had the power to include a requirement that either parent provide at least 90 days notice to the court or to the other parent, or to both, of an intention to relocate alone or with the child either within Maryland or out of state. The notice requirement can be waived if the parent shows that notice would put the child or either parent at risk of abuse, or for another good cause.

There are exceptions to compliance with the 90-day notice requirement for "financial or other extenuating circumstances." If the notice requirement is not met, that can be a factor to be considered by a judge in a related custody or visitation decision.

Focus on the child's best interest

In a relocation proceeding, the judge often must decide whether to modify custody or amend the visitation schedule. The nonrelocating parent may request a change in primary physical custody to him or her so that the child does not have to move away. If no change of custody is awarded, visitation may be substantially revised to ensure the relationship between the child and the parent who remains is not substantially impacted. For example, instead of regular time together during the week or weekends, that parent may instead have the child during school breaks, summers or holidays and may have regular electronic communication.

According to Maryland cases, in order to consider a change in custody, the judge must determine whether there is a "material change of circumstances." If there is, the main issue before the judge will then be whether the proposed move is in the child's best interest.

Relevant factors

Case law requires the judge consider 10 factors as well as any other factor the court considers relevant. Those include:

  • Parental fitness
  • Parental character and reputation
  • Parental preferences and agreements
  • Potential to maintain family relationships
  • Child's desire
  • Opportunities for the child's future
  • Child's age, gender and health
  • Parental residences and visitation opportunities
  • Length of parent-child separation
  • History of abandonment or surrender

Anyone facing child relocation issues on either side should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

The lawyers at Green & Weinstein, PC, in Annapolis represent Maryland parents who either seek to relocate with their children and those who oppose such moves.