Life doesn’t stop after divorce, especially for parents. Things are always changing, and some of those changes may lead to new opportunities or challenges that require you to move. However, when you’re a divorced parent, moving isn’t always easy.
In most cases, when custodial parents want to relocate with their children, Maryland follows a three-step process. Some cases can resolve prior to the completion of all three steps.
Step One: Notification
Except for cases involving abuse, Maryland law allows the court to include a 90-day notice provision in any custody agreement. Accordingly, for most custodial parents, the first step is to notify the other parent. The form and content of the notification should follow the guidelines set forth in the agreement.
There are exceptions to the 90-day limit. Life isn’t always predictable, and the court recognizes the need to expedite matters in cases when:
- Relocation is necessary due to financial struggles or other extenuating circumstances
- You provide notification within a reasonable time after you learn you need to move
If you cannot supply a defense such as this, failing to provide the appropriate notification may very well harm your efforts to move.
Step Two: Check for consent
If the non-custodial parent agrees to the relocation, you don’t need the court to decide if you get to move. Instead, you and your ex can work out the new terms of your custody arrangement and parenting plan. And you can take those new terms to the court for approval.
Depending on how far you plan to move, your relocation could mean anything from simple adjustments to a full-scale custody modification. As a result, it’s often wise to review all the likely adjustments and think about how you might negotiate them before asking your ex for consent.
Step Three: The court considers your child’s best interests
If the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation, you’ll need to show that it’s in your child’s best interest. Your ex’s objections mean your move must first detour through the court.
At this point, the court can review the whole custody arrangement, not just the move. So, you want to provide plenty of evidence to support your argument that the move isn’t just in your best interests, but also in your child’s. This may include showing how the move will improve your child’s:
- Standard of living
- Educational and extracurricular opportunities
- Access to friends and family
- Bond with you as custodial parent
You’ll also want to consider how you’ll support your child’s bond with your ex. Since the court assumes each relocation request demands a reevaluation of your child’s best interests, you want to consider the whole picture, along with all the details.
Plan the trip from start to finish
When you think about your physical move, you need to consider the route as well as your destination. The same holds before you notify your ex about your desire to move. You want a clear view of your goal, and you want a clear view of the steps along the way. If you don’t plan to successfully navigate the journey from beginning to end, any bump could spell disaster. But with the right planning, you’ll be ready for any challenges that arise.