Maine Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make my Maine parenting plan / child custody agreement?

You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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What should be included in my Maine parenting plan / custody agreement?

Your parenting plan / custody agreement should include a few basic components to ensure it's effective:

  • A statement declaring the type of custody the parents shall have. Under Maine law, custody may be allocated, shared, or sole.
  • A parenting time schedule, including a regular visitation schedule plus holidays and vacations.
  • A delegation of parental responsibilities including whether either or both parents will have decision-making authority over the child in major areas like health, religion or school.
  • A provision for a method of future dispute resolution.
  • Any provisions the parents would like to include that are relevant to the situation or care of the child.

Creating a parenting plan in cooperation with the other parent may not be an easy task, but setting your differences aside and working together for the sake of the child will prove advantageous for both of you and for your child.

A parenting plan created by the parents is usually much more effective and beneficial than one created by the court.

In Maine, how can the law help me as I make my parenting plan?

The law can be a valuable tool that you may use to help you create a parenting plan that encompasses the best interests of your child while complying with the law.

When creating a parenting plan (also called a custody agreement) in the State of Maine, it's important to be familiar with the family laws and statutes of the State, as well as the rules of the Court.

These laws can be found in the Maine Revised Statutes. Title 19-A is the section that contains the laws involving child custody and visitation.

The statutes provide definitions for some of the terminology used in court proceedings and establish the laws that are pertinent to child custody proceedings.

In Maine, what does the court consider when ruling on custody matters?

The State of Maine uses the best interests of the child as a determining factor when ruling on child custody matters (Title 19-A, Chapter 55, §1653-3).

Some of the factors the court considers when determining the best interests of the child:

  • The child's age, and if the child is under one year of age, whether or not the child is being breast-fed.
  • The child's relationship with the parents and any other persons who may have an effect on the child's well-being.
  • The wishes of the child as to a custodial preference, provided the child is of an appropriate age to make such a decision.
  • How long the child has been in his or her current living arrangement and whether or not changing the established residency would have a negative or positive impact on the child.
  • The stability of any proposed residency for the child.
  • The child's adjustment to his school, home, and community.
  • The ability of each of the parents to provide the child with love, affection, guidance, and a stable, safe home.
  • The ability of each of the parents to foster a loving relationship with the other parent which involves continuing, frequent contact with the child.
  • Any factors which have an impact on the physical and mental well-being of the child.

In Maine, doesn't custody usually go to the mother?

No, Maine law doesn't favor one parent based on gender. Both parents are considered the natural guardians of the child and are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of custody and care (Title 19-A, Chapter 55, §1651).

Additionally, the state seeks to give a child frequent contact with both parents as long as there are no concerning circumstances like domestic violence (Title 19-A, Chapter 55, §1653-1C).

When both parents realize that they are both equally important in the child's life and you are both equally entitled to the rights and responsibilities of raising your child, the process of creating a parenting plan that truly serves the best interests of your child becomes much simpler.

In which Maine court are family law cases heard?

Family law cases involving children are heard in the Family Division of the Maine District Court. You'll either have a divorce or (if not married to each other) a parental rights & responsibilities case.

The Family Division's mission is to "provide a system of justice that is responsive to the needs of families and the support of their children." (Title 4, Chapter 5, §183).

What is the case management conference in Maine?

In the early stages of your family law case, you will have to attend a proceeding called a case management conference, conducted by a Family Law Magistrate. They're an officer of the court with some of the same powers as a judge.

The point of this conference is to make sure your child's needs are being met and to identify any issues on which parents disagree. Afterward, the Family Law Magistrate will issue orders relating to your case.

The case management conference is a necessary part of the dissolution process. It's helpful to prepare for the conference by trying to create your parenting plan ahead of time, the same way you would prepare for court.

How does working together on our Maine parenting plan benefit our child?

Creating a parenting plan that you both agree on is the best approach. It will help you complete the case management conference in a manner that's satisfactory to both of you. It also ensures your child's needs will be met in a way that works for both parents.

If you don't reach an agreement on your own, you may be sent to court-ordered mediation, where the mediator helps you reach agreement.

As parents, you know your child and your child's needs intimately, and the court does not. It makes sense that the people who know the child best should be responsible for creating the parenting plan that shall serve as a parenting guide until the child reaches adulthood.

The top twelve cities in Maine (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, Auburn, Brunswick, Biddeford, Sanford, Augusta, Saco, Westbrook, Waterville.

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