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What is legitimate cause in a child custody case?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2022 | Child Custody

As a parent, you undoubtedly understood when you filed for divorce in a Maryland court that you and your ex would have to negotiate terms of an agreement for various issues concerning your children. Perhaps you already did that, and you’ve had a court order in place for some time now. What if you need to change the terms of your child custody plan? Or, if you haven’t finalized your divorce yet, what if you believe you should have sole custody?  

In either of these situations, you would be able to make a formal request in court. However, in order for the court to grant your request, the judge overseeing your case is going to expect you to show “legitimate cause,” meaning that you have a logical, practical reason for making the request.  

What are legitimate causes for child custody modifications? 

If the court has issued a child custody order, you and your ex are obligated to adhere to its terms. To show legitimate cause for requesting a change means that you would present evidence to the court that demonstrates your need. The following list provides examples of issues that the court might consider legitimate reasons for requesting new terms:  

  • You or your co-parent are relocating. 
  • You have evidence that your ex is abusing or neglecting your children. 
  • Your work schedule has changed, and the terms by which you agreed to transfer custody are no longer feasible.  
  • You ex has been incarcerated.  

While these issues are merely a few of many possible reasons that a family court judge might consider a valid grounds to request child custody modification, if you cannot show legitimate cause, chances of the court granting your request are few to none.  

Do you have a legitimate cause to request sole custody? 

In most cases, the Maryland family justice system believes that children are best off after a divorce in shared custody arrangements. If you’re planning to request sole physical or legal custody, you must show legitimate cause. The court will want to know why you believe your children’s best interests would be better served if they were solely in your care or you were the only parent with the authority to make decisions on their behalf.  

If you believe that your ex’s presence in your children’s lives is detrimental, you can explain why to the court. Legitimate issues of concern in this type of situation might be a co-parent who has a substance abuse problem. It’s helpful to compile evidence ahead of time, so that when the court asks you for legitimate cause, you’re prepared to give it. Consulting with a legal advocate before heading to court is typically the best way for concerned parents prepare for child custody proceedings. 

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