According to a Baltimore Sun article, in 2002, a Virginia court awarded custody of his son to a divorcing father, with one catch: the father’s gay partner had to move out. According to the article, Virginia family courts may issue conditional child custody rulings like this and thereby block a custodial parent from cohabiting.
So the father (and son) and the father’s partner moved to Maryland and established separate households. (The boy’s mother moved to Florida prior to the original Virginia ruling.)
The boy’s father has been trying to modify the Virginia ruling for two years. And now a Maryland appeals court has entered an order allowing the alternative family to reunite under one roof.
To obtain a modification in Maryland, the party seeking it must first show that there has been a change of circumstances since the previous order. Here, the cited change in circumstances was that a comfortable two income household had been downsized to a less comfortable one income household.
Interestingly, the change in circumstances was the direct result of the Virginia order.
The article mentions in passing that former counsel for the mother had accused the father of forum-shopping when he brought a modification proceeding in Maryland in 2004. That may be a legitimate argument in an interstate custody dispute.
For clarity and balance though, it should be noted that the boy’s mother opened the door to a change of state jurisdiction when she reportedly moved to Florida before entry of the original order in Virginia. Accordingly, she would be hard-pressed to argue that the father was not at liberty to relocate as well, effectively leaving Virginia with no further interest in the case.
The boy’s mother did not participate in the more recent Maryland modification hearing.
It is anticipated that the Maryland ruling will have a profound impact on the nation’s gay community.