The general rule is that in order for a custody or support order to be modified in Maryland, there must be a material change in circumstances. For example, financial hardship due to the loss of a job, the addition or removal of certain expenses related to children (e.g. daycare), or a windfall of money are events that would likely qualify as a change in circumstances, and thereby warrant a modification to a support order.
The process of justifying a modification to a custody order is much more detailed. Specifically, it is a two-step process, whereby it must be established that there has been a material change in circumstances that is affecting the best interests or the general welfare of the child.
For instance, if one parent moves out of state, then the child might not be able to visit with that parent as often. Alternatively, a parent who lived far away could move closer to the child, and request additional time with the child. It could be that the children are poorly raised and are starting to exhibit dangerous behavior linked to a living condition, and there may need to be an intervention. For example, if a parent begins abusing substances or gets incarcerated, then that would warrant a modification to the custody order.
It is not always the case that the proposed change in circumstances is significant enough to warrant a custody order modification. Oftentimes, one parent will just be upset at the other, or just want the custody order to be changed. It is not easy to execute a modification to an existing custody order without clear evidence of a substantial change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child.
Determining the best interests of the child requires a consideration of roughly 25 factors, including the fitness of the parents. If there has been no material change in circumstance but the fitness has deteriorated, that may not justify a modification, although it would be a concern. This is a source of frustration in some cases. Other factors in the determination of the best interests of the child include geographic vicinity, material aspects affecting the child, the age of the child, and the nature of communication between the parents.
Can A Request Or Petition To Modify A Decree Be Challenged Or Opposed?
A request or petition to modify a decree can absolutely be challenged. In court, one party could deny every single thing the other party claims, and they could file their opposition to the court. Often, cases involve heavily contested issues.
For more information on Modification Of Court Orders In A Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (240) 331-0083 today.
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