Child Custody Modifications in Maryland
Maryland law is very specific regarding the ability of either party in a divorce or custody proceeding to later modify child custody. The right to request changes to child custody always remains a right to either parent, however, there are substantial burdens that must be met for a court to overturn a previous order. In McMahon v. Piazze, 162 Md. App. 588 (2005), the court made it clear that a real, significant change is required to meet the material change in circumstances standard.
Pursuant to §8-103 of the Family Law Article, Maryland Courts are vested with the power to modify any child custody agreement with respect to the “care, custody, education or support of any minor child . . . if the modification would be in the best interests of the child.” There are circumstances under which it is reasonable to revisit the issue of child custody after the original divorce order, which will ultimately result in the child’s best interest.
Reasons to Request a Child Custody Modification
The burden to demonstrate that a material change in circumstances has occurred rests on the party bringing the case to court. The following are just a few reasons that a Maryland court may consider modifying an existing child custody order.
Emotional and/or Physical Stability
When the emotional or physical stability of a parent with custody of a child changes drastically, a child custody modification may be appropriate. A court may consider a modification of a child custody arrangement if there is evidence of:
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Substantial emotional instability of the parent or the child
- Failure to allow visitation with the other parent as per the original divorce decree or custody order
- Physical abuse
Clearly, if there is any physical abuse toward a child, he/she should be removed immediately from that dangerous situation. It is important to note that if you believe your child is being abused physically or sexually, it is important to call the police and make a report to the department of social services.
If a parent has relocated or has provided notice of plans for relocation, this could be an appropriate basis for a child custody modification. If a child were to relocate, he/she may have to change schools and potentially reduce time with the other parent or siblings. A judge will look at how the move will affect the current custody/access schedule and the potential detrimental damage of such a move on a child’s academic, physical and emotional health to make a determination as to what is in the best interest of the child.
Best Interest of the Child
After determining that the burden of proof has been met such that there is a material change in circumstances to the child, a Maryland judge will then determine if a child custody modification is in the best interest of the child. If the material changes negatively impact the child’s academic, physical and emotional health, the judge may order a child custody modification.
Contact an Attorney
Successfully convincing a Maryland court to modify an existing child custody order can be challenging and will depend on the specific legal arguments of your case. The Prince Frederick child custody attorneys serving southern Maryland at Meng Law are experienced in family law and will give you the best possible advice regarding your unique circumstance and case. Please contact one of our attorneys today at 410-535-5500 or online.