Is It Possible to Relocate Children After Divorce?
Divorce changes the lives of everyone involved. Spouses find themselves making new plans for a future without the other spouse. Children divide their time between parents and homes. Where those parents and homes are located are bound to change as well.
If you are considering divorce or are in the process, or if you are divorced and have primary custody of your children and are contemplating a move, you need to know what Maryland law says about that. If you are the non-custodial parent and you want your children to stay close, you need to know your rights as well.
Lebovitz Law LLC represents parents in Towson, Baltimore County, anywhere in Maryland, and in York, Pennsylvania, who are fighting to relocate their children and those fighting to keep them near.
Can Children Be Relocated After Divorce?
Maryland holds that parents enjoy a constitutional right to move with their children down the street, across town, out of state, or out of the area in which they currently reside. However, that right is accompanied by the obligation to obtain the permission of the other parent or be granted a court order to do so.
Of course, the relocating parent’s reason for the move must be sound. They cannot move on a whim. They cannot move to get the children away from the other parent unless there is a reason, such as child abuse or neglect. Moving to a better environment for children or for a lucrative job opportunity can be justified, so long as the parent adheres to Maryland’s legal process.
Who Must Be Notified of a Move?
Both the non-custodial parent and the court must be served a notification of intent to relocate at least 90 days prior to the intended move. There may be extenuating circumstances that reduce the 90-day requirement, but even if there are, the moving parent must provide the maximum amount of notice possible.
The notice must be sent in writing to the other parent via first-class mail, return receipt requested. The notice should include pertinent information such as the reason for the relocation and the new address.
If the other parent agrees to the move, the parents must submit a revised parenting plan to the court for approval. If the other parent wants to challenge the move, that parent has 20 days from receipt of the registered letter to file with the court a petition to block the relocation. Each parent will then need to present their case in court and the judge will decide the outcome. Regardless of what side you are on, it is wise to be represented by an experienced child custody lawyer in a relocation challenge.
What Things Does the Court Consider in a Relocation Challenge?
The overriding consideration of the court in any matter related to children is the best interests of those children. Among the factors considered by the court are each parent’s ability to care for the children, the wishes of children mature enough to express them, the effect on the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent, the children’s relationships with each parent, the history of the parents to abide by an existing custody order and parenting plan, the home, and environment the children are in presently and will be in should they relocate, the intent of the parent wanting to move, and the emotional and physical well-being of the children.
If the custodial parent is requesting the relocation to move in with a new spouse or partner, the suitability of that person will be scrutinized as well.
How Does Relocation Affect the Visitation Rights of the Noncustodial Parent?
The court is committed to preserving the relationship between the children and both of their parents, unless there is a reason not to, such as abuse or neglect. Depending on the distance of the move, it will significantly affect any existing parenting plan.
The relocating parent has an obligation to take steps, no matter how different from the existing parenting plan, to accommodate the noncustodial parent’s right to visitation. If the children are being relocated out of the area, splitting the school week or an every-other-weekend arrangement will be not only difficult but financially prohibitive to the noncustodial parent as well.
Neither parent should end up losing substantive time with their children. How that time is allotted, however, will require substantive change. If the parents can agree to a revised parenting plan, they can submit it to the court for approval. If they cannot agree, the court will decide. In either case, the existing child custody and visitation order will be revoked and a new order entered by the court.
Sound Guidance & Compassionate Advocacy
Relocation after divorce is difficult. It creates more upheaval in lives that have already been disrupted. For you, the issue will be extremely emotional. You need an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the legal issues while offering compassion.
Lebovitz Law LLC protects the parental rights of their clients in Towson, Maryland, and the surrounding areas. Call today to schedule a consultation to find out where you stand.