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At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, our founding custody enforcement attorney can help you take the necessary steps when the other parent violates a custody agreement, drawing upon her 35+ years in divorce and family law.

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Enforcement of Child Custody in Maryland

We understand that you want to ensure the custody terms supporting your child’s interests are followed. Maryland law treats both natural parents as equal custodians of their children, without favoring either the mother or father. This bestows both rights and responsibilities upon the parents. If separated parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, either parent can petition a circuit court for an enforcement order in Maryland. The court will then decide whether custody should be granted solely to one parent or shared between both.

When making custody and visitation decisions, the court follows the “best interests” of the child standard, considering specific factors to make that determination. Court-ordered custody includes both legal and physical aspects.

Custody and visitation arrangements are not permanent. As circumstances change, parents can always petition the court to modify the existing court order.

Contact the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee today to schedule a consultation with our founding attorney so we can help you determine the right strategy to approach your unique custody enforcement circumstances.

Reasons You May Need to Pursue Enforcement of an Order in Your Maryland Family Law Case

Child custody orders are legal documents issued by the court that determine the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for a child. In Maryland, custody orders can be established during divorce proceedings or as standalone cases involving unmarried parents. These orders outline important details such as legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical custody (where the child resides).
Several scenarios may necessitate the enforcement of a child custody order in Maryland:

  • Violation of Visitation Schedules: If one parent consistently fails to adhere to the agreed-upon visitation schedule, it can disrupt the child’s routine and create instability. The custodial parent may need to pursue enforcement to ensure the other parent upholds their visitation obligations.
  • Failure to Comply with Custody Arrangements: When a parent refuses to comply with the terms of the custody arrangement, such as refusing to share custody or denying the other parent their allocated parenting time, enforcement may be necessary.
  • Lack of Communication: Effective communication between co-parents is essential for successful co-parenting. If one parent consistently fails to communicate about important matters concerning the child’s upbringing, enforcing the custody order may be necessary to ensure both parents are involved.
  • Refusal to Return the Child: In some cases, a parent may refuse to return the child to the other parent after their allocated parenting time. This blatant violation of the custody order may require immediate enforcement action to secure the child’s prompt return.

The Legal Process for Pursuing Custody Enforcement in Maryland

To pursue enforcement of a child custody order in Maryland, follow these steps:

  1. Consult an Attorney: Begin by consulting with an experienced child custody lawyer who is experienced in Maryland family law. They will guide you through the process and help you understand your rights and legal options.
  2. Document Violations: Keep detailed records of any violations or incidents that demonstrate the other parent’s non-compliance with the custody order. This documentation will serve as crucial evidence during enforcement proceedings.
  3. File a Motion for Enforcement: Your attorney will assist you in preparing and filing a motion for enforcement with the court that issued the custody order. The motion should outline the specific violations and request appropriate remedies.
  4. Attend Court Hearings: Both parents will attend court hearings to present their arguments and evidence. It is essential to provide compelling evidence of the violations and demonstrate why enforcement is necessary to protect the child’s best interests.

Factors Impacting Successful Enforcement of a Custody Order in Maryland

Several factors can impact a parent’s ability to successfully enforce a child custody order in Maryland:

  • Documentation and Evidence: The quality and strength of your documentation and evidence play a crucial role in proving violations and persuading the court to take enforcement action.
  • Legal Representation: Having an experienced child custody lawyer by your side significantly increases your chances of successful enforcement. They will help build a strong case and advocate for your rights and the best interests of your child.
  • Court Discretion: The court has discretion in determining the appropriate enforcement measures. The judge will consider the specific circumstances of the case and prioritize the well-being of the child when making decisions.
  • Parental Cooperation: Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and find amicable solutions can positively influence the court’s perception of your commitment to co-parenting and the child’s best interests.

Maryland Has Adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a nationwide law that applies to all states, including the District of Columbia. Its purpose is to prevent one parent from relocating a child to another state to reopen custody issues in a different court system. For example, if both parents and the child live in Maryland and a custody order is issued by a Maryland court, neither parent can move the child to Virginia in order to seek a more favorable custody order from a Virginia court.

Once a state establishes jurisdiction and issues a custody order, all states respect and recognize that order. In other words, no matter where a custody order is issued, it will be honored and enforced in any state.

Under the UCCJEA, determining which state has jurisdiction over a child custody case is crucial when the child resides in a different state than one of the parents. Courts must determine the child’s “home state” according to the UCCJEA, which is where the child has lived for at least six months.

Maryland specifically has its own Family Law statute, section 9.5-201, that outlines when the state has jurisdiction over a child custody matter.

Furthermore, once a court has made an initial custody determination, that court retains the authority to hold additional hearings if necessary.

How Enforcement of Orders is Affected by Residence, Location or Behavior

Concerning child custody, Maryland operates under the principle of promoting the best interests of the child. The courts prioritize stability, safety, and the child’s overall well-being. In Maryland, there are two types of custody: legal custody, which pertains to decision-making authority, and physical custody, which determines where the child resides.

To enforce custody orders effectively, understanding the factors that influence the court’s decisions is crucial.

Residence and Location: Key Influencers in Custody Orders

The child’s residence and location play significant roles in custody order enforcement. Maryland courts generally strive to maintain the status quo and ensure minimal disruption to a child’s routine, especially pertaining to physical custody. The court considers such factors as:

  • Proximity to schools
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Established social networks

Courts may lean towards granting physical custody to the parent who can offer a stable living environment closest to the child’s current residence.

Behavior: A Deciding Factor in Custody Cases

In Maryland, the behavior of both parents during the divorce or separation process can heavily influence custody orders. Courts assess each parent’s ability to facilitate a healthy and nurturing relationship between the child and the other parent. Demonstrating cooperative behavior, respect for court orders, and a willingness to foster a positive co-parenting environment will likely strengthen a parent’s case for custody.

However, serious concerns such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, or any behavior that jeopardizes the child’s well-being can significantly impact custody decisions. The court’s paramount concern is always the safety and welfare of the child.

Practical Guidance for Parents in a Maryland Custody Battle

Navigating a custody battle can be emotionally draining and overwhelming. Here are some practical tips to consider:

  • Maintain open communication: Foster clear and respectful communication with your co-parent. Keep conversations focused on the child’s best interests and avoid conflict whenever possible.
  • Follow court orders: Adherence to court orders is essential. Strive to comply with visitation schedules, exchange agreements, and any other directives provided by the court. Document any violations or concerns that may arise.
  • Document and gather evidence: Keep a comprehensive record of all relevant interactions, incidents, and communications related to your custody case. This documentation can serve as valuable evidence in court.
  • Seek professional guidance: Engaging an experienced child custody lawyer in Maryland is crucial. They will provide valuable advice, strategize with you, and advocate for your rights and the best interests of your child.

When Do Failure to Follow Custody Terms Cross The Threshold of Abduction or Abandonment Under Maryland Law?

Maryland takes custody enforcement – governed by specific laws and court orders – very seriously. Both physical and legal custody, which pertain to where the child lives and who makes major decisions about the child’s life respectively, are subject to enforcement.

Non-compliance with a custody order can lead to significant legal consequences. If a parent interferes with the other parent’s court-ordered custody or visitation rights, the aggrieved parent can file a Motion to Enforce or a Petition for Contempt. The Motion to Enforce allows the parent to ask the judge to compel the non-compliant party to follow the court order and grant relief to the seeking party. It can prompt the court to implement sanctions against the non-compliant parent, which can range from modifications to the custody arrangement, fines, or, in extreme cases, jail time.

The Petition for Contempt gives the judge several options, including:

  • Holding the non-compliant party in contempt
  • Issuing a Show Cause Order for a stringent explantation
  • Imposing penalties
  • Providing remedies to the requesting party

In some instances, complying with the original request, such as adhering to visitation or child support schedules, may be sufficient. However, if you need additional remedies, seek the assistance of a custody enforcement attorney with experience with contempt of family court cases.

On the other hand, if a child’s safety is at risk, an emergency custody order can be requested from the court. This order temporarily changes the custody arrangement to protect the child until a formal hearing can be held.

If a parent intends to relocate with the child, they must give the other parent written notice well in advance. Depending on the circumstances, the court might need to approve the relocation, especially if it significantly disrupts the other parent’s visitation rights or the child’s routine.

Maryland law also provides for interstate custody enforcement under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), ensuring custody orders are upheld even when parents live in different states.

Maryland Courts Can Respond in Various Ways When Enforcement is Needed

If the court determines that the custody order has been violated, they may take various actions to enforce compliance, ranging from issuing warnings or fines to modifying the custody arrangement or holding the non-compliant parent in contempt of court.

Failure to comply with custody orders is a common problem in Maryland, and the court is unlikely to make an effort to enforce custody without a parent’s initiation of legal actions with the guidance of an experienced custody attorney. Because each situation is unique, it is important to consult with your attorney to carefully review and assess the circumstances requiring custody order enforcement and strategize your next steps

Schedule a Consultation with Ellen L. Lee, a Family Law Attorney with Over 35 Years of Experience in Montgomery County, Maryland

In Maryland, the process of seeking a modification in a custody agreement is stringent, requiring substantial evidence that the changes in circumstances directly impact the best interests of the child. Due to the complexities involved in enforcing a child custody order, seeking proper legal guidance and support is critical to protecting your rights and the best interests of your child.

Are you dealing with a custody enforcement issue? Contact the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee at (301) 279-0692 or complete our online form. Located near the Rockville Courthouse, our law office assists clients in Montgomery County and throughout Maryland. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have about custody enforcement.

We offer multiple options for our initial information-gathering session to suit your preferences and needs. You can choose to meet with us in person at our boutique law office in Rockville, Maryland, or opt for a Zoom video conference or phone call. We understand the importance of flexibility and offer evening and weekend appointments for your convenience.

Why Choose the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, LLC

Ellen L. Lee has devoted over 35 years of unwavering commitment to aiding individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law needs. Grounded in counseling and psychology, she provides personalized guidance and assistance to her clients in an inviting atmosphere — prioritizing effective communication while forging new beginnings amidst family law disputes.

  • Tenacious & Compassionate Legal Support
  • Trusted Guidance that Exceeds Expectations
  • Full Range of Family Law Services
  • Flexible Consultation Times: Nights and Weekends are Available
  • Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland

Our Founding Attorney conveniently meets with clients via phone, video conference, or in person at our office in Rockville, Maryland.

Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (301) 279-0692

Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (301) 279-0692

Ask a Question, Describe Your Situation,
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Fill out the form below or feel free to call us at (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692

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Law Offices of
Ellen L. Lee, LLC

We are available for weekend and evening appointments.