Court modification of an existing child support and custody award is available so long as the moving party can show a material change in circumstances that affects the welfare of the child or children in question has occurred. In rare circumstances, Alimony is modifiable as well. As a Maryland divorce and custody lawyer, I have advocated for parties seeking or defending against a request for modification of an existing order.
Modification of Child Custody
Courts may modify agreements between parents concerning custody and visitation in a child’s best interests. After a court enters an order of custody or visitation (including an order approving and incorporating the parents’ agreement into its order), the order may be modified only upon a showing of changed circumstances affecting the child’s welfare.
Material Change Affecting the Child’s Welfare
Two Step Process
The burden of demonstrating why the court should modify custody falls on the party seeking a modification of a child custody order. The moving party has to show material changes affecting the welfare of the children.
The idea behind this requirement is that the law does not want parents trying the same case over and over until they get the result they want. Secondly, it provides children by promoting stability in their lives.
Is the proposed change in the best interests of the child? Then the change is likely a material change.
Excessive interference with the other parent’s access to the child, multiple moves in a short time and lack of communication with other parent.
Once a party meets the burden of establishing a material change in circumstances then the court has apply the best interests of the child analysis to determine custody and visitation. But the best interests of the child in a modification case leans heavily on keeping things the same unless there is proof that the changes are negatively impacted the child. The courts have distilled this idea as the preference for the Status Quo: If a child is doing well under the current custodial environment, the custody will not be changed.
What if material changes have occurred but there is no impact on the welfare of the child? The Court can consider the potential future impact of such a change to ensure the best interests of the child are met going forward.
The court’s look at several factors in establishing custody and sustainability is one factor that carries significant weight especially where one parent has had custody for a long period of time.
This a brief overview of a complex are of the law. Therefore, if you need to discuss your case with a knowledgeable custody lawyer call my office at 410-849-9529.
Disclaimer: This posting is not meant to be legal advise. No attorney-client relationship formed by reading this article. Always consult a knowledgeable custody lawyer.