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Can I Move My Child Out of State?

When the need or opportunity arises, adults can find themselves moving to another state. This is particularly likely in Maryland, which borders four other states and the District of Columbia. This decision can be more complicated if there are children in the mix, particularly if there is shared custody with another parent. Maryland has very specific laws about whether and when a parent can relocate across state lines with their child, so it is essential to understand your rights and obligations before moving.

As a practical matter, relocations are not situations where “asking forgiveness” is better than getting permission. Under Maryland law, the Maryland courts retain jurisdiction over a child who resided in Maryland for six months after a move. This means the other parent can bring a court action in that time frame and demand that the child return to Maryland. The court could then issue a custodial order requiring the child (and possibly the parent) to return to the state. Rather than run this risk, be aware of the rules and follow them to obtain clear rights to the child’s relocation.

Getting Permission From the Court

A parent risks losing some of their custodial rights or having their plans completely disrupted if they don’t get permission to move a child out of state before making the move. The most common scenarios for co-parenting arrangements give each parent access to their child, which could be impeded by a move out of state by the other parent. As a result, a parent who wants to move must obtain permission from the other parent, and often a court order, to relocate. The permission process includes specific procedures that a parent has to follow to be allowed to move. These include giving the other parent notice in a specific time frame and a hearing on the matter.

The Court will rule on the request for permission based on the circumstances. If the other parent objects to the move, the court will apply the best interests of the child standard, which includes specific factors that the court will apply to make a determination. Even if the court has previously determined in favor of the parent planning to move, the relocation is a change in circumstances that might lead to a change in the custodial arrangement.

Reaching an Agreement With the Other Parent

As with other situations involving child custody in Maryland, courts are deferential to the parents if they have reached an agreement. This means that the parties can resolve the change in custody and enter into a written agreement that can be submitted to the court for approval. This is a strong argument in favor of working with the other parent on a new custodial arrangement through negotiation before seeking the court order.

Under some circumstances, a parent does not have to obtain permission. These include instances where paternity has not been established and situations with no existing court order regarding child custody. The latter can consist of pre-divorce separation or parents who were never married and have never obtained a court order regarding child custody and support. However, regardless of the reason that the parent has the “right” to move out of state without a court order, if there is another parent in the picture, it is a risk to move because of the court’s continued jurisdiction.

Due to the complexity of the issue, it is strongly advisable to seek advice of counsel before making a move out of Maryland with a child.

Malech Law is located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. For more than 25 years, Mr. Malech has provided aggressive and effective representation for his clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This year, he was selected as the Best of Bethesda 2022 Readers’ Pick for Best Family Law Practitioner. He has also been given the Lawyers of Distinction Award Recognizing Excellence in the Area of Divorce and Family Law for the past three consecutive years and has just been recognized as a Family Law Top 10 Attorney for 2021 by “Attorney and Practice Magazine.”

Visit Malechlaw.com or call (202) 441-2107.

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