Child custody in Maryland, be it sole or joint custody, favors neither mother nor father. Rather, the best interest of the child governs, and once custody and visitation orders are in place, they cannot be modified unless there’s been a material change in the child’s life.
Relocation constitutes such a change.
Of course, everyone—and this includes mothers and fathers—has the constitutional right to free travel, which includes the right to relocate. But the best interest of the child is a competing right. Whether the move is in state or out of state, it may be a condition in the custody or visitation order that the court, the other parent, or both be notified.
If there’s contention, the court will weigh all the considerations of all parties involved and either permit or disallow the move.
Notification of intent to relocate
The stipulation that the court may include in any custody or visitation order is that either party must provide 90 days’ notice of intent to relocate either to the court, the other parent or both.
With this, the clock starts ticking.
The other parent has 20 days to petition the court to block the move. In response, the court will schedule a hearing on an expedited basis to examine the particulars of the case with special attention to the merits of the decision to relocate and whether there’s ill will operating to limit or undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child.
Exceptions regarding the execution of the relocation notice
Exigencies may make this notice requirement insupportable:
- The notice element: If this action would expose the child or either parent to abuse or some other harm, the court can waive the requirement.
- The time element: If the relocating parent cannot meet the 90-day requirement, it can be modified providing (1) the relocating parent has compelling reasons for the hasty move and (2) the relocating parent gave the court and the other parent as much lead time as possible.
The courts view this notice requirement seriously and any violation thereto may be held against the relocating parent in future custody or visitation proceedings. It’s important to tread carefully. The guidance of an attorney skilled in this area of the law will help keep things on track.