One of the most frequently asked questions I hear as a Family Law Attorney is “How do I change an existing custody order or agreement?”
When child custody is initially decided, it is done based on the circumstances at the time the decision was reached. Presumably, the decision considered your child’s age and needs and each parents’ abilities, among other things.
As time passes, circumstances can change. A custody schedule that is designed for a toddler will not necessarily work for a teenager. Or, a parent may need to alter the custodial schedule to reflect a new employment arrangement or life change. This is why many parents find themselves wanting to revisit their custody order after it is entered.
If the Court is going to reconsider the current custodial arrangement, the parent seeking the change must demonstrate the existence of a “material change in circumstances” that impacts the child. The term “material change in circumstances” is easier said than defined. Not just any change will do. Perhaps a reasonable rule of thumb is that the change cannot be ordinary or minor in terms of effects on the daily routines of life. Modification of custody cases are extremely fact specific, so it is important to consult an experienced lawyer before proceeding.
If a material change in circumstances is proven, then the court can evaluate what custodial arrangement is in the best interest of the child. To determine what is in a child’s best interests, the Courts will consider a litany of factors, including for example, your child’s relationship with each parent, as well as the ability and desire of each parent to provide your child with the best home possible. After finding a “material change” and making a “best interest” determination, the Court can enter a new custody schedule or decide that it is best to keep the existing arrangement in place.
The modification of custody process can be challenging and uncertain. If you need assistance with a modification of custody matter, please contact the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman LLC at 410-842-1070 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We practice in jurisdictions throughout the State of Maryland.