The family law attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier explain the steps an individual should take when seeking modifications to an established child custody agreement.
Child custody arrangements are one of the most debated topics during divorce. However, if a divorced couple finds that their initial arrangement is not working out, there are two primary ways in which a child custody agreement can be changed – by agreement of both parents, or by agreement of the court.
Legal and Physical Custody
There are two forms of custody arrangements that can be modified over time. Legal custody is established for a parent who has the responsibility to make the primary decisions regarding the upbringing of the children, including decisions about education, healthcare and religious affiliation.
Physical custody represents the right of one or both parents to have children reside with them until they reach majority age. Parents can vie for sole custody or agree to a joint living arrangement. If one parent is awarded sole custody of the children, the courts have the ability to grant visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.
How to Change Your Custodial Agreement
When filing a court petition, a parent is making an attempt to alter the child custody agreement that is currently in place. In order to do so, they must have a solid basis for the change. Though this may seem like a rudimentary step in the process, it is very important, as a court may dismiss a petition that has no supporting reason. It is important to remember that a change in a custody arrangement could disrupt a child’s routine and day-to-day life, and is not something to be taken lightly.
Once a petition has been filed with the court, the other parent will be served with notice of the motion. When a court reviews a petition, its main focus will be on how this change will affect the welfare of the children. At times, a court will agree to modify the custody agreement solely on the basis that it is in the best interest of the children to do so.
There is no custody statute in the State of Maryland, although the Maryland Commission on Child Custody Decision Making is currently introducing a bill that would establish such a law for our State. Until such time as a statue is made law, the Court’s base their custodial determinations off of the facts of each case and the history of child custody cases decided by the Court of Special Appeals and/or the Court of Appeals that compromise Maryland custodial law.
An alternative to filing a petition with the court is for the parents to come to a mutual agreement on their own. Courts often encourage parents to discuss the decision in an attempt to develop a new arrangement that is in the best interest of the children and both parents. It can often be less expensive and more effective for parents to utilize their attorneys to draft a Consent Agreement with regard to any custodial modifications that can then be filed with the Court without need for a hearing.
If you are seeking to change your custodial arrangement, it is important that you consult with a family law attorney. An attorney can serve as a resource for divorced parents attempting to change an agreement outside of the courtroom. Conversely, an attorney can also represent your best interests during litigation, in the event that you or your former spouse files a petition to alter a previous arrangement.
For more information on changing child custody agreements, or if you have questions regarding your individual situation, contact the family law attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide about the subject matter. A licensed Maryland attorney should be sought about your specific circumstances.