It’s not uncommon for a parent to move out of state when a relationship has ended. In Maryland, if the parties cannot reach a custody agreement (sometimes called a parenting plan, which should be then incorporated into a consent order with the court) the court will decide what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. However, situations change: One parent might lose his or her job and have to move elsewhere for work, while the other parent might meet a new romantic partner and want to move for personal reasons.
Assuming your parenting plan (incorporated into a consent order) or court order does not specifically address what happens when one parent wants to move with the child, the first questions to ask are:
Would the move take the children closer to the other parent?
Would it keep them within their current school district?
If the answer to either question is yes, the parent may move the child without going back to court.
If the answer to either of these questions is no, the parent may still be able to relocate the child. First, the parent who is seeking to relocate must give reasonable notice to the other parent, which is typically 90 days. Second, the parent must demonstrate a legitimate purpose for the move and that the proposed location is reasonable in light of that purpose. This is a broad test, but when a parent wants to move because of a vindictive desire, the court can prevent the parent from moving with child. Ultimately, the court cannot prevent the parent from moving, but it can prevent the parent from moving with the child.
Once the relocating parent demonstrates that the move would be reasonable in light of a legitimate purpose, the court then must consider the 11 factors it would normally consider in a custody matter when determining what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. The court will consider several factors, including, but not limited to:
1. each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move;
2. the quality of the relationships between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents;
3. the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the noncustodial parent;
4. the degree to which the custodial parent and child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the move;
If you or the other parent is trying to relocate with minor children, it is best to seek legal counsel for advice and recommendations on how to proceed.