Parents’ rights in relocation cases
After divorce, former partners must consider each other’s parenting rights when making important decisions about where to live. A parent may have good reason to want to move. A job promotion, a relationship, proximity to extended family members, better educational opportunities or safer neighborhood may offer attractive alternatives to staying put.
Modification of visitation orders
A relocating parent must provide 90 days’ notice to the court and the other parent of the intention to move. The other parent has the opportunity to object to the move at a hearing. Even if both parents agree to the terms of relocation, the court has discretion to deny the request if a judge determines that it is not in the children’s best interest. A court approval of relocation often requires modification of an existing visitation order — to which parents can settle through mediation or ask the court to decide at a hearing.
Burden of proof on both parents
Maryland law places the burden on both parents to show what is in the children’s best interest. The relocating parent must present evidence that shows how the move will benefit the children, whereas the other parent must prove that the children are better off remaining in Maryland.
Factors courts consider include the fitness of the parents, the parents’ characters and reputations, any existing agreements made between the parents, potential of maintaining natural family relations, residences of both parents, visitation opportunities, length of the separation, history of voluntary abandonment or surrender, the children’s preferences, material advantages to the child, and the children’s ages, health statuses and genders.