Maine Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
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.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Your parenting plan / custody agreement should include a few basic components to ensure it is effective:
- A statement declaring the type of custody the parents shall have.
- A parenting time schedule which includes a regular visitation schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule.
- A delegation of parental responsibilities including whether either or both parents will have decision making authority over the child regarding health, religious, and educational issues, etc.
- A provision for a method of future dispute resolution.
- Any provisions the parents would like to include as long as they 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 to be advantageous for both you and your child.
A parenting plan created by the parents is usually much more effective and beneficial than one created by the court.
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 is 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 Maine Revised Statutes. Title 19-A of the Revised Statutes 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.
The State of Maine uses the best interests of the child as a determining factor when ruling on child custody matters (19-A M.R.S. §1653-3).
Some of the factors the court considers when determining the best interests of the child are:
- 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.
No, the State of Maine considers both parents to be equal and cannot favor one parent based on gender. Both parents are considered to be the natural guardians of the child and are each entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of custody and care (19-A M.R.S. §1651).
Additionally, it is the perspective and policy of the State that a child should be assured frequent and continuing contact with both parents as long as there are no extenuating circumstances such as domestic violence, other types of abuse, or any situation that may endanger the child (19-A M.R.S. §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.
Family law cases involving children are heard in the Family Division of the Maine District Court.
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." (4 M.R.S. § 183).
In the early stages of your family law case, you will have to attend a proceeding called a case management conference, which will be conducted by a Family Law Magistrate.
Some of the reasons for the case management conference are to make sure the needs of the child are being met and to identify which issues the parents agree and disagree on.
The case management conference is a necessary part of the dissolution process. It is helpful to prepare for the conference by trying to create your parenting plan ahead of time, the same way you would prepare for court.
The Family Law Magistrate is an officer of the court who has some of the same powers as a judge.
At the end of your case management conference, the Family Law Magistrate will issue orders relating to your case.
Creating a parenting plan that you both mutually agree on is the best way to make one. It will help you complete the case management conference in a manner that is satisfactory to both of you.
Reaching an agreement will help you avoid having to attend court ordered mediation.
It is also the best way to ensure the needs of your child are being met in a way that benefits not only your child, but both parents.
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.