With separation comes the opportunity to pursue a new life. Those who find themselves moving out of the home they once shared with their former partner may view this as an opportunity to look for a new job, go back to school, or relocate to be closer to extended family.
For parents with custody agreements in Maryland, however, relocating to a new state likely requires a modification of your existing court order. And depending on the nature of the move, parents should be aware of how a potential move could impact their custody arrangement going forward.
Revisit Your Divorce and Custody Agreements Before Taking Action
Before you make any decision about relocating, remember to consult with your family attorney as soon as the issue presents itself. This is not something to wait and see until you are packing your bags to move. Your legal representative can help walk you through the specifics of your custody agreements to determine whether you need a court order before moving.
Many child custody agreements provide specific steps which must be taken before relocating, including giving written notice to the other parent and the number of days the notice must be given before moving. Even a move to a new county in the same State may require a court order, as your children’s education and primary healthcare providers, and specifics relating to custody exchanges, including the time the child will spend in the car between homes and activities, may be impacted by the move.
Understand What Factors the Court Considers
Ultimately, if parents cannot reach an agreement to modify custody due to a relocation of a parent, the Court will decide. The Courts are required to guide their decisions based on what is in the best interest of the children, not for the parent. For example, if your desired relocation is precipitated by a new, higher-paying job, the Court will want to know how that is in the best interest of your child. The Court will also want to know why it is better for your child to leave his or her current life to move somewhere completely different and presumably, away from the child’s other parent. The change to your co-parent's custody access will be a very important consideration before a court would approve the child’s relocation. If your move greatly hinders your co-parent’s ability to regularly see the children, a judge may not agree on relocation.
If you believe you need a court’s determination on the relocation, allow yourself ample time for the case to proceed through the Court system. Many courts do not see a parent’s relocation as an emergency; however, if a parent relocates the children without an agreement or court order, it could trigger an emergency proceeding.
Consider the Role of Your Co-parent
Convincing your co-parent that a move would be in the best interests of the children may be a difficult task, but mediation and guidance from certified Parent Coordinators may help facilitate the discussion. This will be a difficult discussion, but it is important to be forthcoming and consider all options before relocating. You may feel as though now is the right time for a move but remember to consider the wishes of your children. If your move will have a minimal impact on your children’s quality of life or well-being, or if the move could potentially damage the relationship your children share with your co-parent, it may not currently be in their best interests.
Even if parents reach an agreement on relocation, the new custody agreement should be documented. Consider how the relocation will impact the regular schedule, holidays, special occasions, and vacations. You should also think about how to handle activities that a child may want to do with school friends if that child will be spending weekends with a parent in another location.
What to Keep in Mind if Your Co-parent Wants to Relocate With the Children
When you share custody of your children, be prepared to understand that a major change in the life of one co-parent can greatly affect the life of the other. If your co-parent announces their wishes to move to a new area with the children, do not panic. However, you may want to contact a lawyer to assess the situation at your earliest convenience.
Bear in mind that even if your co-parent lands a higher-paying job in a different state, the Court may not agree to the relocation of your children if the other parent is left with significantly reduced visitation time. A court may decide that a higher income for one parent will not improve a child’s overall quality of life as much if they are separated from the other parent.
If you have concerns over a potential new move, either for yourself or your co-parent, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced family attorney to discuss your options.
If you have questions about child custody and relocating after divorce, please contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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