Can I move out of Maryland with my child if I do not have a custody agreement?
When two people share a child, whether as a result of a relationship or not, legal rights can be difficult to determine and understand without a child custody order, especially when paternity hasn’t been legally established. Because it is an issue of grave concern, potential clients often seek counsel from Mr. Coover upon separating from their child’s parent or when one parent threatens to move with their child.
As a Howard County child custody lawyer with over 35 years of experience, Mr. Coover is dedicated to helping you resolve your child custody dispute with the personal attention you need to address both your short- and long-term needs. To schedule your consultation at Coover Law Firm, LLC, call (410) 553-5042 today.
Paternity is simply the legal term for someone being legally determined as a child’s father. There are a few different ways that paternity can be established in Maryland.
- Affidavit of Parentage. If the mother is unmarried when a child is born, paternity can be established through an Affidavit of Parentage form signed by both parents. This allows the father’s name to be included on the birth certificate. This is usually done at the hospital after the child is born; however, the form can be taken home and signed in the presence of a notary.
- Genetic testing and Court orders. If parentage is contested, either party may request genetic testing. In highly contested situations, a request for genetic testing can be made by filing a case and motion with the appropriate Court. The Court can, thereafter, issue an Order of Paternity based on the results of the genetic test.
- Presumed parent. If the mother was married at the time the child was conceived or born, then the mother’s spouse is presumed to be the parent and an Affidavit of Parentage will not be signed.
Moving when paternity isn’t legally established.
Until paternity is established, the mother has sole legal and physical custody of her child in Maryland. This gives her the authority to make decisions for the child, including where the child lives (physical custody).
Under these circumstances, the mother is, in fact, the only parent the law recognizes until paternity is established. Therefore, the mother has the right to move out of state and take her child with her. The father may contest the move by filing a case with the appropriate Court wherein he must seek an Order of Paternity and an Order preventing the move.
If the mother gave the child to the father and she’s no longer in the child’s life, but the father isn’t listed on the birth certificate, he can seek an Order of Paternity and Custody Order so that he can legally have custody of the child. This will help prevent issues regarding school registration, medical care, traveling with the child, and much more.
What happens after paternity is established.
After paternity is established, if the mother has left the state with the child, but there aren’t any Custody Orders in place, the father can petition a Maryland Court for the child’s return and for Custody and Visitation Orders. This Petition must be filed with the Court that has jurisdiction over the child, which is the County where the child lived prior to the move.
How the Court decides who gets custody.
Maryland Courts do not favor mothers over fathers or fathers over mothers when determining custody, even if the parents aren’t married. There are several different types of Child Custody Orders that can be made. For example, the parents can share joint legal custody, or one parent might have sole decision-making (legal custody), and they share physical custody.
In making any Child Custody Orders, the Court must utilize the “best interests of the child” standard. In doing so, the Court considers several factors, including:
- The age, health, and sex of the child;
- The psychological and physical health, character and reputation, and financial stability of each parent (i.e., their parental fitness);
- The bond between the child and each parent;
- The child’s preference, if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express their wishes to the Court;
- Which parent is best able to maintain relationships between the child and the extended family;
In cases where one parent is looking to move with the child, the Court will still consider these factors, but they will also consider:
- Where each parent lives and the feasibility of the non-custodial parent visiting;
- Amount of time the child has been separated from the natural parent who is seeking custody;
- The motive behind the parent’s request;
- The impact the potential move will have on the relationship between the child and the non-moving parent;
- The willingness of either parent to allow the child to have regular contact and visitation with the other parent;
The application of these factors is different in every case as some might be given more weight than others depending on the parent’s relationship with each other or a parent’s level of involvement in the child’s life. There might be other factors the Court should consider in your situation that could have a pivotal role in the outcome of your case.
You owe it to your child to ensure you have quality representation from an experienced and reputable Howard County child custody lawyer.
Concerned about child custody in your upcoming move? Coover Law Firm can help.
There’s a lot to consider when moving a child, including the rights of each parent.
Understanding the legal implications of moving a child, with or without an established Paternity or Custody Order, can be very complex. It is important that you understand your rights and how any decisions might affect your child.