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Child Custody: Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some frequently asked questions about child custody.  While these questions are answered consistent with the statutes for the state of Maryland, as with many areas of family law, every situation is unique.  While the law frequently provides a straight answer, in practice, there may be many ways to achieve a desired result.  Because of this, family law questions regarding a specific situation are best answered by an experienced family law attorney.

Grandparent Visitation

“I’m a grandparent, and my child and their spouse are getting a divorce.  I want to make sure I maintain a relationship with my grandchildren.  Is grandparent visitation an option?”

In Maryland, courts may consider a grandparent’s petition for “reasonable visitation.”  Under Maryland Code § 9-102, courts may grant grandparent visitation if the court finds visitation is “in the best interests of the child.”

Child Driven Changes in Child Custody

“My parents divorced when I was two.  I want to change my custodial parent.  Is this possible?”

The short answer is, “maybe.”  Maryland Code § 9-103 imposes conditions on petitions for custody change brought by children.  For example, children petitioning the court for a change in custody must be 16 years of age or older.  Once filed, the court will hold a hearing to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the petition.  The court may amend the previous order or decree to modify custody as requested.  Alternatively, the court may determine the present custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child and leave the order or decree as it stands currently.

Non-Custodial Parent’s Access to Records

“I am a non-custodial parent.  Am I still entitled to access to my child’s records?”

Most of the time.  Parents who don’t have physical custody of their minor children are generally still legally entitled to access to education records, dental records, and medical records of their minor children under Maryland Code § 9-104.  Of course, there is an exception to this.  In the rare circumstances where the court files an order to the contrary, prohibiting non-custodial parents from access to these records.

Interference with Visitation or Denial of Visitation

“My ex interferes with my visitation rights by showing up late or demanding the kids return early.  Sometimes my ex even refuses my visitation rights altogether.  Is there a legal remedy?”

Yes.  Under Maryland Code § 9-105, a few remedies exist.  First, the court must make a determination one parent interfered with or denied visitation as previously ordered by the court, and the interference was unjustifiable.  The court has the option of rescheduling missed visitation.  Alternatively, the court may modify the previous custody or visitation order.  The court’s modification may add additional conditions so as to ensure compliance with visitation or custody in the future.  Courts will also consider other remedies.  Of course, in doing so, the courts keep in mind the best interests of the child or children.

“Do I have any remedies regarding my costs to enforce my visitation rights?”

Yes.  Maryland Code § 9-105 (3) provides that courts may assess costs, as well as attorneys’ fees, against the parent or guardian who engaged in the conduct which denied or interfered with the visitation rights.

Relocation and Child Custody

“I want to move out of state with my child, who I have physical custody of.  Do I have to get permission from my ex?

As with many areas of the law, the answer to this question is, “It depends.”  Maryland Code § 9-106 addresses notification prior to the relocation of a child.  The first step is to review your divorce decree, your child custody decree, or your visitation decree.  Courts sometimes include notice prior to relocation as a condition of custody or visitation.  This requires a relocating party provide written notice at least 90 days in advance, to either the other party, the court, or both.

Maryland’s Code permits a waiver of the 90 day notice requirement in certain circumstances.

Deployment and Child Custody

“My ex and I have a mutually agreed upon child custody arrangement.   I just received a notice of deployment.  Do we need to modify our child custody order?”

Even where parents amicably agree to a child custody arrangement, when something such as deployment interferes with the arrangement, it is a good idea to modify the arrangement with the court.  As a preliminary matter, for purposes of child custody Maryland Code § 9-108  defines “deployment” as:

compliance with military orders received by a member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or any other Reserve component to report for combat operations or other active service for which the member is required to report unaccompanied by any family member or. . . is classified by the member’s branch as remote. . .

Deployment does not include annual training, drill weekends, or inactive duty days.

When one parent receives deployment orders, a modification of an existing child custody or visitation order notes the deployment as the reason for the modification.  The modified order requires the other parent facilitate opportunities for communication between the child and the absent parent, including, but not limited to phone and email communications during the deployment.  The modified order includes instructions the non-deployed parent accommodate any leave schedule, and the deployed parent provide timely information about any pending leave scheduled.

Once the deployment ends, the once deployed parent petitions for modification of the child custody or visitation order.  With modification petitions filed within 30 days after deployment ends, the court expedites the hearing date for the petition.

Questions About Child Custody?

If you have questions about your current child custody or child visitation situation, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima, LLP.  With over 50 years of combined experience, we are ready to work with you to achieve a positive result for you, and your family.

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