Without question, maintaining a vibrant relationship with your child can be challenging if your child resides most of the time with her other parent and you live thousands of miles away. If, however you get the opportunity to relocate closer to the child, you may desire to take that opportunity to have a larger role in the child’s life and spend more time with her. When experiencing a situation like this, you still have to go to court and secure a modification of visitation, which means you still have to demonstrate a sufficient change of circumstances to the judge. This is a substantial requirement that requires careful knowledge of the law. To make sure you get the change you need to enhance your relationship with your child, consult an experienced Maryland family law attorney.
The case of L.J. was one where the father was a U.S. Marine who found himself in that type of situation. He and his wife had a daughter in 2009 and divorced in 2012. When they divorced, the husband was on active duty, stationed in California. The wife lived and worked in Maryland. After the separation, the parents worked out a custody arrangement and a visitation schedule. The schedule gave the father 120 days per year until the child started school. After school began, the father received all but three weeks of summer break, in addition to spring break, Thanksgiving break and every other Christmas holiday.
Three years after the divorce, the father received a medical discharge from the military and returned to Maryland. His new home was roughly 30 minutes from the mother’s residence. Based upon this change, the father asked the court to modify the visitation schedule and allow each parent to have the daughter 50% of the time.
In order to be entitled to any sort of change to your custody and visitation agreement, you have to prove to the court that you have experienced what the law calls a “material change in circumstances.” This is a relatively heavy burden of proof and the sort of everyday changes of life that commonly happen will generally not trigger an ability to re-litigate custody and visitation.
Obviously, moving cross-country to relocate from 3,000 miles away to 30 minutes away is not an everyday change, but the trial court still ruled that the father had not established a “material change in circumstances,” so he was not entitled to a change in custody or visitation. The father appealed and won.
Once you have proof of a valid change in circumstances, then you must prove that the change you desire is in the best interest of the child. In this couple’s case, the trial judge concluded that the best interest of the daughter would be served by making no changes and denying the father’s request. The court stated that the child had formed a closer bond to the mother due to the long-distance relationship with the father. The appeals court rejected that conclusion, though, as the evidence in the case indicated that the child was close to both parents and, whenever with one parent, expressed that she missed the other.
For skillful and knowledgeable legal representation in your family law case, contact experienced Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Our office has been helping our clients to work toward productive outcomes in their divorce, child custody and visitation cases for many years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Maryland Father Overcomes Great-Grandmother’s Effort to Obtain Court-Ordered Visitation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 13, 2018
How Your Move Can Impact Your Child Custody and Visitation Arrangement in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2017