Q: Can I move out of state with my 6 month old?
My daughter has been under my sole care until she was 4 months old, but due to an abusive situation at my parents, we had to move in with her father( the only other person we know in Maryland.) Me and my child's father were never married but he signed an Affidavit of Paternity after she was born. We have never been to court or had a court-ordered custody agreement. Although he has never shown abuse/neglect towards our child he has physically and emotionally abused me. Would I be able to move to Texas without his permission? I would inform him but if he says no can he legally keep me from leaving with our daughter? I have family in Texas, a job already lined up, I have been enrolled in college there since 2017, and I'd be moving into my own apartment whereas we're staying with his mom here in MD. I really need to leave soon and don't think I will be safe in the time period it would take to go to court but I don't want to risk losing my daughter because I left.
A: It’s a complicated question. With no court order in effect, either parent has legal authority to have physical custody and can move out of state. However, because this is the child’s home state of residence, Maryland courts have jurisdiction to hear a custody dispute under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). That means, if you move to Texas and the father initiated a custody case in Maryland before you are able to meet the residency requirements for jurisdiction in Texas, then the case would have to be determined in Maryland even if you were to file in Texas first. Under the UCCJEA, the home state of the child is one in which the child has lived in for six months immediately before the custody proceedings began. If the child is under the age of six months, jurisdiction falls to the state in which the child was born. So, for this to work, you would have to live in Texas with your child for 6 months before filing for legal custody there, and hope the father does not initiate a case in Maryland before then. Alternatively, you might get the father to sign a custody agreement that makes you sole legal custodian with reasonable rights if visitation granted to him. The parent with sole legal custody has far greater latitude to relocate with the child. Finally, just because Maryland has jurisdiction over the case to determine custody issues does not mean that a judge would stop you from moving to Texas with your child. Much depends on how the father reacts to your relocation.
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