When children are involved in a divorce, deciding on the child custody agreement is usually the most difficult and emotionally-charged aspect of the divorce proceeding. Once a couple has agreed upon these arrangements, amendments often present a challenge. In all cases, the best interest of the child or children involved must be the priority in amending the agreement.
Amending a Child Custody Order in Maryland
In Maryland, the parent requesting a modification to an existing child custody agreement has the burden of proving that a material change in circumstance has occurred. This means that a significant and unanticipated change in circumstances has evolved since the child custody agreement was instituted. Furthermore, the parent must prove that the modifications requested are in the best interests of the child involved. This is not an easy task.
The material change in circumstance must be significant enough that the petitioning parent convinces the court that an amendment to the original child custody arrangement is warranted. Usually, these changes come from a physical separation that prohibits the original child custody agreement to be implemented, or when the welfare of the child is at stake.
Changes to Parents’ Living Arrangements
For example, if a couple had been awarded joint custody, but one of the parents decides to move far enough away that the child cannot reside with both parents as initially agreed upon, then the court could determine that a modification is in order. This does not mean that the parent moving away would automatically win or lose custody. It is the responsibility of the petitioning parent to prove to the court that the move is not in the best interest of the child.
Another material change in circumstance could involve a situation wherein one parent remarries or moves in with a new partner. If the petitioning parent is the one who is involved in the new relationship, it would not be a sufficient reason to amend the agreement simply to accommodate the couple’s new lifestyle. The best interest of the child involved must be served. In this situation, the petitioning parent could lose out considerably if the court decides that it would be best for the child to stay with the parent that is providing the most familiar routine and home, especially if the move requires a change in schools.
Changes to Child’s Needs
If the needs of the child involved in the custody agreement have changed, an amendment may be warranted. One common scenario involves children that are diagnosed with a serious medical condition or cognitive learning deficit after the initial agreement had been solidified. The new diagnosis may mean that the best interests of the child would be served in a different school, perhaps in a different town, thus requiring living arrangement modifications. The parents may not agree, but if the petitioning parent can prove that services at the new school would benefit the child’s academic and social future, the court may make the modification.
The bottom line in any amendment is determining what is best for the child or children involved. The court’s obligation is to determine not which parent has the best argument. The court’s responsibility is to determine what arrangements would best serve the child. It’s not an easy task, but parents that keep their emotions and personal feelings aside and focus strictly on the best interests of their child have the best chance for a successful outcome.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Parents Deal With Child Custody Amendments
If you would like more information about amendments to a child custody agreement in Maryland, our experienced Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help. Call us today at 443-589-0150, or contact us online to schedule a consultation.