Sometimes a parent with custody of his or her children may want to move. A small move around the corner will most likely be innocuous and easy to adapt to, but a move to another state or across the country may be disruptive and necessitate the couple modifying their existing parenting plan. When this is the case, certain legal steps must be taken.
First of all, in Maryland the custodial parent must notify the non-custodial parent of the desire to move in writing within 90 days. Once this has been done, if the notified parent appeals within 20 days the court will be compelled to quickly hear the case.
Should the non-custodial ex-spouse appeal the move and the case goes to court, a judge weighs the following factors in determining whether to approve the custodial spouse’s proposed move:
- What are the custodial parent’s reasons for moving? Are they in good faith and positive, for example taking a new job or remarrying or trying to improve on the support system or educational system of the children? Or are they self-serving and negative and seemingly motivated by animosity or a desire to undermine the relationship between the ex-spouse and the children?
- What are the non-custodial parent’s reasons for objecting to the move? Again, are the reasons positive or negative? Is the objecting parent motivated by a concern for the couple’s children or by more negative motives, such as trying to keep the ex-spouse from starting a new relationship or taking a new job?
- Will the proposed move benefit the children? Will it potentially enrich and improve their lives, in offering better schools, a more involved extended family and support system and friends? Or will it rip them from their current lives and work against their development and growth?
In Maryland, as in other states, a judge weighs these factors — as well as the feelings and opinions of the children — before deciding to approve or reject the custodial spouse’s proposed move and change the couple’s existing parenting plan.