How to Change From Sole Physical Custody to Shared in Maryland

by Abby Lane
Maryland law allows parents to share physical custody of their children.

Maryland law allows parents to share physical custody of their children.

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In Maryland, the courts allow shared physical custody when parents can work together to raise their children. If your original custody order gives your child’s other parent sole physical custody, you must ask for, and receive, a court order before you can enjoy a shared physical custody arrangement.

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Physical and Legal Custody

Maryland law addresses both physical and legal custody of a child. If you have physical custody, your child lives with you most of the time and you can make day-to-day decisions for your child. Legal custody allows you to make long-term decisions for your child about things like education, religion, medical care and other significant issues. Maryland allows one parent to have physical custody while both parents share legal custody. If you have both legal and physical custody, you have “sole” custody of your child.

Shared Physical Custody

Maryland law also provides for shared physical custody. If you share physical custody with your child’s other parent, the child spends at least 35 percent of the time with each parent. Parents can create their own shared physical custody plan that work for all parties -- and of course, is in the best interest of the child. Your child can rotate between parents every week, month or even year. Some parents find that shared physical custody works best when the child stays in one stable residence and the parents rotate in and out of that home.

Modification by Agreement

When a court determines that your child’s other parent should have sole physical custody, you have to ask the court to change, or modify, the custody order to give you shared physical custody. You ask the court for the change by filing a petition, or formal request, for modification with the court that made the original custody decision. If you and your child’s other parent agree to share physical custody, you simply have to present the modified agreement to the Maryland court that issued the original custody order. If the agreement is in the child’s best interest, the court will like approve the agreement.

Contested Modification

If your child’s other parent will not agree to a change in the court-ordered custody arrangement, you must file a petition for modification and ask the Maryland court that originally decided custody to order shared physical custody. The court will award you shared physical custody if you can prove that circumstances have significantly changed since the original custody decision -- and that shared physical custody is in your child’s best interest. Since you are asking for the change, you have the burden of proving these factors to the judge. Evidence that might constitute a significant change in circumstance include a change in your child’s age, a change in your living arrangements, a change in the relationship between you and your child’s other parent, your remarriage, or your child’s own wishes.