When a couple with children divorces, a child custody plan is part of the settlement. Later, as the children mature, circumstances may change, and the original custody plan is no longer appropriate. In Maryland, a parent who wishes to adjust the plan must return to family court and petition a judge. A Maryland child custody modification lawyer can help the parent present evidence to the judge to demonstrate that the proposed change is necessary.
Is It Easy To Modify Child Custody Orders?
No – the procedure to change child custody orders requires significant time and paperwork supported by a solid legal argument. Because the family court’s chief concern is the welfare of children, post-judgment modification is a complex process. The court’s preference is to keep the original child custody order intact so that the children remain in a stable situation. The burden is on the petitioning parent to prove that an amended order is required.
To establish that a new arrangement would be beneficial to the children, the petitioning parent must:
- Show evidence that there has been a material change in circumstances; and
- Prove that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the children.
What Are Some Typical Reasons For Custody Modification?
- The current environment is dangerous to the children’s physical health and/or emotional well-being.
- The custodial parent is voluntarily relinquishing custody. Examples include moving out of state, being deployed overseas for a tour of several years, or becoming incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for the children.
- Visitation needs to be adjusted to the availability or unavailability of the parent. For instance, if the children stay with the noncustodial parent every weekend, and then that parent moves 300 miles away, the visitation schedule will have to change.
- The children are moving far away or out of state with the custodial parent.
- One parent is not following the stipulations set forth in the child custody order.
Since Maryland’s statutes are specific and detailed, the petitioning parent should seek the services of a skilled Rockville family law attorney.
Can Children Seek To Modify A Child Custody Order?
Children at least 16 can petition on their own, without a guardian, for a change of custody. The child must show that a modification is in his or her best interest.
What Documents Are Needed?
The petitioner will need to provide evidence such as:
- Texts, emails, photos, social media posts, letters
- Statements from school officials, medical experts, and other witnesses
- Official records (criminal, work, medical, school)
- Calendars or journals documenting parenting time and difficulties
Generally, young children are not present at custody cases. However, there may be rare instances where an older child’s testimony is necessary. Modification lawyers can help determine how children should present their information to the court.
How Long Does The Process Take?
At a minimum, the petitioning parent should expect to wait about three (3) months before the court hears the case. Many factors can influence or prolong the process. For example, if one parent lives out of state, the process will take longer. Conversely, if both parents agree to the proposed changes, it may accelerate the process.
Between filing forms, paying fees, receiving a writ of summons from the court, serving the other parent with copies of the paperwork filed in court, and receiving the other parent’s response, a petitioning parent may have to wait 30-90 days before the court schedules a case.
From there, both sides will meet in a scheduling conference, and the court may also require a pre-trial settlement conference. Next, the court will schedule a hearing. Once the case is heard in court, a ruling will be made.
The petitioning parent may request an expedited hearing for cases where the children’s lives are at risk. In urgent, life-threatening situations, the parent should not wait for court orders but notify the police immediately.
Fait & DiLima, LLP: Bold Approaches, Effective Resolutions
Child custody is an emotional issue, and modifying a child custody order is a journey where you will need a helping hand. The process is complicated, the forms are numerous, and the court will expect you to be represented by an advocate who is well-versed in Maryland family law. In addition, even if your ex agrees with your proposal (which is not typical), he or she will still have their own legal representation. Protect your children and set yourself up for the best chance at a favorable outcome by relying on Fait & DiLima, LLP.
With more than 50 years of collective experience, Fait & DiLima’s award-winning team has successfully represented clients and their children in post-judgment modification procedures. Contact us today at (301) 251-0100 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation. Our offices are located in Rockville and Frederick. For your convenience, we also offer online meetings.
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