Custody/Visitation including relocation and modification

Child custody and visitation (or access, as it is frequently called) relates primarily to two concepts of child custody: physical custody and legal custody.  Physical custody governs the schedule by which a child is with one parent or the other.  Visitation (or access) pertains to an arrangement whereby a child spends more time with one parent then the other, and typically refers to the child’s schedule with the other parent.  Visitation/access falls under the umbrella of physical custody.  With physical custody, the titles or characterizations connected to the concept matter far less than a child’s actual schedule with his or her parents. 

Legal custody governs how major decisions are made for a child, including decisions related to a child’s education, religion, health, and general welfare.  In Maryland, parents can have joint legal custody, sole legal custody to one parent, or joint legal custody with final decision-making authority, or ‘tie-breaking’ authority residing with one parent in the event of an impasse regarding a major legal custody decision.  This tie-breaking authority can relate to one aspect of a child’s life, such as medical decisions, or can be across the board, so to speak.  Unlike physical custody, the title affixed to a legal custody arrangement directly impacts the authority a parent does or does not have to make decisions on a child’s behalf.

The Court can modify child custody arrangements upon a showing of a material change in circumstances impacting the best interest of a minor child.  There are many and varied factors that might amount to such a material change, and each case is fact specific.  Relocation of one or both parents to a different state or region is generally regarded as a material change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a change to a child custody arrangement.  

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