Relocation and Children

In Maryland, When couples who have minor children divorce (or if never divorced cease living together or getting along), if the parties cannot reach a custody agreement (sometimes called a parenting plan, which should then be 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 their 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, or would it keep them within their current school district? If the answer to either question is yes, the parent may move the child.

If not, 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 where a parent wants to move because of a “vindictive desire,” the court may find that the move would serve no legitimate purpose (the court would not – and cannot – prevent you from moving, the court just can prevent you 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 an original custody matter when determining what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest.

If you or the other parent is trying to move minor children, it is best to seek legal counsel for advice and recommendations on how to proceed.

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