Seeking — Or Opposing — A Long-Distance Relocation of Your Children to or from Maryland

Today, people’s lives are more portable than ever. For most people, gone are the days when you would grow up, get married, and raise children in one area, coupled with a spouse doing the same. This new reality can be especially true for professionals working in specialized fields. The increase in the geographic portability of people’s lives and careers can play a major role when your spouse and you divorce, and child custody is an issue. Whether you are the parent seeking to relocate with the child, or you are the parent opposing relocation, you have certain rights under the law, so it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable Maryland child custody attorney on your side to protect your relationship with your child.

One recent case ruling from the Court of Special Appeals provided an example of how these trans-national child custody cases can play out. The father was a geophysicist, and the mother was a doctor licensed to practice medicine in Europe. They met in Germany but eventually moved to Texas. The couple separated after three years, and the Texas court, in the couple’s divorce, granted the mother “the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children, without regard to geographical location.” The court also gave the mother the right to hold the children’s passports.

At some point, one of the parents relocated to Montgomery County in Maryland because the mother filed an action to “enroll” the Texas order in Maryland, which would make the Texas decree enforceable in this state. Later, the mother asked the Montgomery County court to modify custody. She asserted that the children’s passports had expired, that she’d received an offer to practice medicine in Germany, that she intended to move there with the children, and that the children’s passports needed to be renewed.

The court altered the Texas order. Instead of giving the mother full control over the children’s passports, the court ordered that they be kept in the court registry. The court also limited the mother’s range of relocation options to places within the United States.

The mother appealed but lost. The ruling offers some helpful pieces of information about custody modification. One is that the law requires a “material change in circumstances.” One of the changes that this mother alleged was that the father failed to pay child support. The evidence in the case did demonstrate that there was a period of time when the mother was not receiving child support. The court concluded, however, that this was a case of the mother not receiving money, instead of the father failing to pay. The father paid by wage lien, and, for some months, there was an administrative “snafu” because the father took a new job, and the new employer paid him in British pounds sterling, rather than U.S. dollars. The change in employment and issues with the conversion of British currency to U.S. currency were the problems, instead of the father improperly withholding payment.

In order to trigger the change requirement, the recipient parent has to show that the non-payment was the paying spouse’s fault. That wasn’t the case here, so there was no change of circumstances.

The mother also made an argument that denying her requested move to Germany created a financial hardship that negatively affected the children. In order for a financial hardship argument like this to succeed, the parent must show that the children were “struggling due to poverty.” That didn’t apply to this situation. The mother and children lived in a luxury high-rise apartment building in an upper-middle class area of North Bethesda. The children’s living arrangements were suitable and safe, and, even by the admission of the mother’s attorney, the kids were “thriving.” That meant that there was no error by the trial court in denying the requested move.

Moving your children across town is an undertaking. Having them move across the globe is a potentially life-changing decision. Whether you are seeking relocation with your children or striving to oppose having your ex-spouse relocate your children far away, make sure you have the legal representation you need. Talk to experienced Maryland child custody attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Our office has been helping clients protect their relationships with their children 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:

Resolving Your Maryland Child Custody Dispute Through a Mutual Agreement, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 17, 2018

How Your Move Can Impact Your Child Custody and Visitation Arrangement in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2017


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