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What do you need to know about custody or support modifications?

After the end of a marriage or a romantic relationship with the other parent of your children, you will need to create a parenting plan or custody order. Child support will also be part of the plan. Courts will consider support amounts based on the needs of the children and the custody arrangements.

Typically, Maryland families need to follow the existing order by paying support and facilitating frequent custody exchanges. However, sometimes families need to change custody or child support orders because the existing orders do not properly work for their family anymore.

A substantial change is needed

There needs to be some substantial change for a family law judge to reconsider a custody or support matter. There needs to be some compelling difference as opposed to when the state last reviewed the issue. Either parent changing jobs, a major shift in the relationship that the children have with one parent or health issues could all provide the basis for a modification request.

When the overall schedule for the family changes, it may be necessary to update the custody arrangements, either to better reflect the current circumstances of the family or to change how much parenting time each parent has. In a scenario where one parent has struggled to meet the children’s needs or has mental health issues, reducing their parenting time may be a logical step.

When one parent previously wasn’t in a position to spend much time with the children but has improved their circumstances, granting them more parenting time could also be an option that would benefit the children. For child support matters, typically there will need to be proof that either there has been a substantial change in income or in the needs of the children.

Will the courts approve a modification request?

Just because one parent has grounds to request a hearing where a judge reviews the situation does not necessarily mean that the judge will order a modification and change the support or custody order. For custody orders, a judge will typically need to believe that changes would be in the best interests of the children. For support orders, the financial changes will need to be significant enough to warrant adjusting child support.

Although support issues are often contentious, custody matters can become more amicable as parents adjust to the new arrangements. It may be possible for adults co-parenting to request an uncontested custody modification that changes their parenting plan. When the parents don’t agree about the need for changes to the custody or support orders, then the family may need to go back to court and have a judge review the situation.

Understanding when post-decree custody modifications are available can help people determine if it is time for them to return to family court.