If a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?
A judge may change a custody order under certain circumstances.1 When one parent wants to change an existing custody order, it is his/her burden to show the court why it should be changed.2
The law in Maryland favors keeping the living situation of the child stable, so a judge might not change your custody order unless you can show that something in the current environment is harmful or that your home will be better.2 To do this, you must show:
- A change in circumstance that may affect the welfare of a child has taken place in your home or the other parent’s home; and
- A new custody and/or visitation arrangement is in the child’s “best interest.”3
1 See Md. Code, Fam. Law § 1-201(b)(4)
2Levitt v. Levitt, 556 A.2d 1162 (Md. 1989), The People’s Law Library of Maryland
3Wagner v. Wagner, 674 A.2d 1 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1996)
Can the child ask the court to change the custody order?
Yes. If the child is 16 years or older, s/he may file a petition (ask the judge) to change the custody order. The child does not need a parent or guardian to file the petition. The judge will hold a hearing and may decide to place the child with the parent s/he requests (but does not have to).1
1 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-103
Do I have to notify the court if I want to move with my child?
In any custody or visitation case, the judge may include a requirement that either party provide advance written notice of at least 90 days to the court, the other party, or both, when the permanent residence of either the parent or the child is going to be relocated (within the state or to another state).1 However, if you can show that this type of written notice would expose the child or either party to abuse (as defined by law) or that there is another good reason not to give the notice, the judge can do away with the notice requirement.1
If the judge orders you to give written notice to the other party, it means that the notice has to be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the other party.3 Note: If you cannot give the full 90 days’ notice because relocation was necessary due to financial or other extenuating circumstances, the other parent may bring you to court for failing to follow the notice procedures. However, if you gave the required notice within a reasonable time after learning of the need to relocate, the judge may consider this if the other parent brings you to court for not giving him/her the full 90 days’ notice.4
If either party files a petition regarding the proposed relocation within 20 days of the written notice, the judge must quickly schedule a hearing.5
1 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106(a)(1)
2 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106(b)
3 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106(a)(3)
4 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106(c)
5 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-106(a)(4)
Can a parent who does not have custody have access to the child's records?
Yes. Parents without custody may access the child’s medical, dental and educational records unless a judge orders otherwise.1 If you have a good reason to ask that access be denied, you may consider raising this issue in the custody proceeding.
1 Md. Code, Fam. Law § 9-104