In the State of Maryland, courts will modify existing child custody and visitation arrangements in accordance with the best interests of the child. However, they will only do so upon a showing of a materially changed circumstance reasonably believed to affect the child’s welfare. The burden of showing such material changes rests upon the party seeking modification. Absent any showing of material change, courts will not re-litigate a pre-existing custody or visitation arrangement. Factors such as drug use, impoverishment, abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence constitute material changes in circumstance. Additionally, a parent’s relocation may in some cases be sufficient to warrant a custody modification. In its assessment, a court will consider such factors as the distance moved, changing of schools, the difference in neighborhoods, and any effects upon the parents’ ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child. More often than not, relocation will be deemed a material change in circumstance. Concerning material changes, courts will apply the same standards of evaluation for access modifications as they would for custody modifications:
“The purpose underlying the material change requirement is the same, whether the requested change is in custody or in a visitation schedule.” McMahon v. Piazze, 162 Md. App. 588, 875 A.2d 807 (2005).
Assuming that the moving party has established that there has been a material change in circumstance, Maryland courts must then determine whether a modification of custody or visitation is in the child’s best interest. In their assessments of a child’s best interest, Maryland courts place substantial importance upon the stability of a caretaker’s household. (See McCready vs. McCready, 323 Md. 476, 593 A.2d 1128 (1991); and Domingues v. Johnson, 323 Md. 486, 593 A.2d 1133 (1991)).
Other considerations include, but are not limited to, the fitness of the parents, the age and health of the child, and the parents’ ability to provide for the child’s needs. Moreover, a court may consider the child’s parental preference if he or she is determined to be at a sufficient age.
If you have questions about Child Custody, Guardianship or any other Family Law issue please contact Amira Khan at (240) 507-1737 or email@example.com
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Amira Khan, an Associate in Offit Kurman’s Family Law, concentrates her practice across the full spectrum of divorce and child custody issues. She is certified in Collaborative Law and can practice as a Best Interest Attorney where she represents children in highly contentious cases.
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