Modification of Custody and/or Modification of Child Support
Unlike nearly all other Judgments and Final Court Orders in Maryland, Legal Custody, Physical Custody and Child Support Orders are always subject to modification.
Unless both parties agree, before a Court will modify Legal Custody, Physical Custody or Child Support, a party seeking a modification must first show a material change of circumstance. A material change of circumstance is a fact specific inquiry which is unique to each case.
Legal Custody: Examples of a materiel change of circumstance regarding Legal Custody may include a change in the ability of the parties to communicate and make joint decisions, a move by a party and other issues significantly affecting a child.
Physical Custody: Examples of a material change of circumstance involving Physical Custody may include how the child is doing under the current schedule, a move by a party, the age of the child, a significant change in the life of a parent or another material change.
It is often harder to prove the existence of a material change of circumstance in the immediate months after a Court Order. Courts are leery of modifying custody shortly after an Order was entered.
Once a Court finds that there has been a Material Change of Circumstance, the Court looks at what is in the best interests of the minor child or children in reaching its decision regarding Legal and Physical Custody.
Child Support: In determining whether there has been a material change of circumstance with regard to Child Support, the Court looks at whether there has been a significant change regarding either party’s income, the cost of child care, the cost of health insurance for a child or the cost of extraordinary (often uncovered) medical expenses of a minor child. A change in the physical custody schedule also may constitute a change of circumstance. There is no set rule as to what percentage of a change of income or other cost constitutes a material change or circumstance. That said, any minor changes of the above expenses which result in only a small change in child support will likely lead a Court to leave the initial Child Support Order in place.
Once the Court finds that there has been a material change regarding child support, unless the case is above the Guidelines, the Court will apply the Maryland Child Support Guidelines to determine the new child support figure.
If not settled early on, cases involving a modification of custody and/or child support involve discovery, often mediation, several court appearances and a trial, as may occur with regard to the initial divorce/custody/child support matter.
Should you have any questions concerning the Modification of Legal Custody, Physical Custody, Child Support or any other area of law, feel free to contact the offices of Alman & Alman, LLC.