Maryland Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
A parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement) outlines how separated parents will raise their child. Parents can draft one individually (to propose to one another) or together. An attorney or mediator can help.
Parents who disagree with each other draft individual proposals and must also submit a joint statement (more below). The statement highlights their agreements and disagreements, covering largely the same topics as a parenting plan.
Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.
What to include in your parenting plan
Your parenting plan must protect your child's best interests. It should include the names and addresses of both parents and all the children involved, and it should cover legal and physical custody.
Legal custody (also called parental responsibility or decision-making authority) sets forth who can make major decisions for a child.
You can give one parent this power (sole legal custody) or split it between both parents (joint legal custody). With the latter, you might name one parent the tiebreaker for certain decisions, meaning they ultimately get to make the decision if there's a disagreement.
Physical custody determines where your child lives, and parenting time determines when each parent sees the child. The arrangements are laid out in a written access or visitation schedule. You can attach a visual calendar for easier comprehension.
To cover all the bases, include a holiday schedule to specify who will have the kids during special occasions, and a school break schedule to cover extended periods when the child does not have classes.
Additional information to consider including
Parents are encouraged to include additional agreements to help them avoid stress and confusion later. Think of possible issues that could arise, and specify how you'll handle them.
Address how you'll communicate with the other parent. For instance, if you want a paper trail, choose texting, email or messaging via Custody X Change. You can stress in your plan that conversations between parents must stay civil.
Also set ground rules for communicating with the child. You might agree that parents will not disparage each other in front of the child or involve the child in disagreements. You can set rules for when and how one parent can contact the child during the other parent's custody time.
Schooling and extracurricular activities
Specify what school or type of school your child will attend. State which parent's address will be used to register the child in school.
Include a plan for extracurricular activities too: who may sign the kid up, who may attend, etc.
State how transporting and exchanging the child will work. This includes which parent is responsible for pickups and drop-offs and whether out-of-state travel is allowed.
Detail who else can care for your child besides parents and whether parents should use each other as their first choice for a babysitter.
Outline a process for settling parenting disputes. You might choose an alternative dispute resolution method like collaborative law or name a mutual friend to serve as a go-between.
Child support isn't covered in the parenting plan, but parents can detail how other expenses are handled, like gifts, trips and extracurriculars.
Parents should discuss activities their children can and cannot engage in. Are they allowed to access fireworks? What forms of entertainment are acceptable? Do these change as they age?
Specify how you'll introduce new partners to your child. Consider when it's appropriate for your child to meet your partner and whether the other parent should meet them first.
When parents disagree: Joint statements
Parents who don't have an agreed-upon parenting plan must provide the court with a joint statement. This document helps the court make a final custody order.
The plaintiff must combine the information into one joint statement, sign it and serve it to the defendant at least 15 days before it's due to the court.
Then, the defendant must sign or attach a written explanation of why they did not sign. They're responsible for submitting the joint statement to the court on time.
Making sure you don't overlook anything
While the state's parenting plan template covers a lot of important information, it doesn't know your family's circumstances. To ensure your child's needs are fully addressed, make sure to add custom provisions or build your own plan.
Custody X Change enables you to do both. In the app, you can choose from over 140 popular provisions, as well as enter rules unique to your family.
This creates a document you can attach to the Maryland template or submit on its own.
In the end, you'll be glad you made a thorough plan that will work for you and your child for years to come.
For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources: