Child Relocation (Maryland)
Can a parent relocate with their children after divorce?
Once a custody agreement or order is in place, if the other parent does not agree to the relocation, the party requesting the move must file a Motion to Modify Custody based on a substantial change in circumstances. While the Court cannot prevent a party from relocating, it can determine whether or not the child can relocate.
What are some reasons a parent would want to relocate with their children?
Relocation cases result when one parent has to move from their current geographic area for valid reasons such as a job change, remarriage, or economic crisis, and sometimes less valid reasons such as wanting to be closer to family, a warmer climate, or wanting to limit the other parent’s access to their child.
Is a parent obligated to notify the other parent or the Court before they relocate?
Pursuant to Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106, a judge may include a requirement that either party provide advance written notice of at least 90 days to the court, the other party, or both, when the permanent residence of either the parent or the child is going to be relocated (within the state or to another state). However, if a party can show that this type of written notice would expose the child or either party to abuse (as defined by law) or that there is another good reason not to give the notice, the judge can do away with the notice requirement.
If either party is required to relocate in less than the 90–day period specified in the notice requirement, the court may consider whether the relocation was necessary due to financial or other extenuating circumstances; and whether the required notice was given within a reasonable time after learning of the necessity to relocate.
Additionally, the Court may consider any violation of the notice requirement as a factor in determining the merits of any subsequent proceeding involving custody or visitation.
How does the Court decide relocation cases?
In relocation cases, the Court will weigh the certainty and stability of a primary caretaker against the ability to have constant contact with both parents. The Court of Appeals determined in Domingues v. Johnson, 323 Md. 486, 593 A.2d 1133 (1991) that if one parent is clearly the primary caregiver and the other parent has been an occasional or infrequent visitor the adverse affects on the child will be diminished making it easier for the Court to determine what is in the best interests of the child. However, if both parents have been actively involved in the child’s life a move may not be in the best interest of the child. Under these circumstances, the Court may consider a number of factors such as weighing the stability of maintaining the primary caretaker with the stability of permitting the child to remain in an area where they have always lived, where they may continue their association with friends, and where they may maintain frequent contact with extended family. Ultimately, the Court will base the decision on what is in the best interests of the children.