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Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody Modifications in Maryland

By: Z Family Law


Just because a judge signs a child custody order doesn’t mean that it is “set in stone,” or incapable of being changed at some point in the future. Depending on the facts involved, a co-parent may make a formal request to have an existing custody order modified. In this post, we’re addressing a few of the most frequently asked questions on the issue of child custody order modification in Maryland.


What is Required to Support a Modification of an Existing Order?

Existing child custody orders may be changeable, but the co-parent seeking a change cannot base this request merely on his or her own desire or preference. In other words, to request a modification, there must be a basis for this request, which means that a “material change in circumstances” must have occurred. The principle by which modification requests are assessed is the “best interests of the child,” the same principle which guides essentially all custody determinations. Since the original custody order is determined according to this same principle, it follows that the original order should remain in place unless a new factor or circumstance comes into play. Thus, a petitioner needs to show that a new change in circumstances warrants a modification.


What Kinds of Circumstances Support a Modification?

The kinds of circumstances which might support a custody modification are the same kinds of circumstances which determine the original order. When making their decision, judges will consider all the relevant facts and circumstances, just as they do when making the original custody order. Just because a new circumstance arises doesn’t mean that this will be sufficient to modify the order; if the new circumstance doesn’t put the child in a better overall situation, then the original order will stay in place unchanged. 

Some circumstances which might be sufficient to modify an order include a new job in a new location (i.e. order modification following relocation), an incident of domestic violence, unacceptable behavior from the other co-parent (i.e. refusal to honor original order, etc.), or a change in the health of either co-parent. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and to find out whether your circumstances might warrant a modification, it’s best to contact an experienced family law attorney. 


How Much Does a Petition for Modification Cost?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how much a petition for modification will cost because it depends on numerous factors. The primary cost involved will of course be the legal fees associated with filing the initial motion, and then litigating the matter in court. There are many ways to manage your costs, such as hiring a family law firm that assigns a Legal Assistant to your case to keep things moving at a lower billable rate, and ensuring your communications with your attorney are concise and to the point (hint: emails are cheaper than phone calls in most cases), but the money you spend on a modification is an investment in your family’s future.


How Does the Modification Process Work?

The petitioner makes a formal request for a custody modification in the form of a motion to the court. Then, a formal hearing on the request will take place, and both parties will have an opportunity to present their side. In the end, the judge will base his or her determination on whether the proposed modification fits with the prevailing standard. This is true even if the non-petitioning co-parent agrees to the proposed modification. If the proposed modification is accepted, then it will become the new “final” order and have the same effect as the original order.


Is the Burden of Proof on the Petitioner?

Yes. The petitioner needs to demonstrate that a change in circumstances warrants a change in the custody order, and why this proposed modification is in the child’s best interests. 


Contact Z Family Law for More Information

For more information about whether your specific circumstances might warrant a modification, call Z Family Law today by dialing 301-388-5528.

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