Maryland’s Parenting Plan Requirement
What Is a Parenting Plan?
It is a written document outlining how co-parents will handle various child-rearing issues, particularly those related to physical and legal custody. Physical custody involves where a child will physically reside and the day-to-day decisions that are required during that time. Legal custody involves making important decisions for a child, such as on matters of religion and education. As with other child custody matters, the overarching legal standard for evaluating a parenting plan is what is in the child(ren)’s best interest.
When Does the Requirement Apply?
A parenting plan is now required from parties in any case where child custody is an issue, including divorce and modification of custody cases. For the purpose of the parenting plan, Maryland Courts define “party”
as anyone “who wants to ask the court to establish or maintain a parent-child relationship with a child. This includes biological, adoptive, and de facto parents and legal guardians.”
What Should a Parenting Plan Include?
There are numerous factors to consider when developing a comprehensive parenting plan, but several key topics
should be addressed:
Decision-Making Authority (Legal Custody)
Who will be responsible for making decisions on significant matters, such as religious upbringing and medical care? If decisions are to be made jointly, what if you and your co-parent are deadlocked? Does anyone have tie-breaking authority? If parents share legal custody, they can specify how they will make decisions and handle disputes based on the subject matter. For example, one parent could have tie-breaking authority when it comes to medical care, while the other has tie-breaking authority regarding education.
Provide details on how you intend to share and access important information about your children, such as regarding their health and education. For example, will you both have access to the child(ren)’s school records? Will both parents be listed as emergency contacts?
Schooling and Extracurricular Activities
In what type of setting will your child(ren) be educated? How will you manage activities for the child, including potential time conflicts and transportation arrangements?
This section of the parenting plan outlines physical custody arrangements, i.e. how much time the child(ren) will spend with each parent. The parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions as necessary for the child(ren). Here you will detail what schedule will work best during the year, including weekdays, weekends, holidays, school breaks, and out-of-state travel.
Parenting Time (Physical Custody)
Include details regarding when your child(ren) transition(s) from one parent to the other, such as when each parent will be responsible for transportation and where the exchanges should occur.
Transportation and Exchanges
You can also address the issue of child care providers in a parenting plan, including how they are selected, and under what circumstances they are used.
Communication Between Parties
You can establish at the outset of your co-parenting relationship how you prefer to communicate. For example, if telephone calls tend to devolve into arguments, but email and texts usually stay civil and productive, the parties can agree that email and texts should be used to communicate about the children.
Communication Between Parents and Children
A parenting plan should also include details regarding how and when the parents will communication with their child(ren).
A parenting plan also allows co-parents to outline how they plan to resolve child-care disputes in the future. For instance, will you agree to attend mediation before going to court if you and your co-parent are at an impasse?
A parenting plan can address other issues that may be important or relevant to your child(ren), family, or lifestyle. These can range from deciding what step-parents should be called to how children should be disciplined.
What Are the Benefits of Creating a Parenting Plan?
Having a comprehensive parenting plan helps establish expectations and address potential situations before they become a source of conflict. The process of developing a parenting plan also encourages parties to focus on the common goal of caring for their children. Creating a parenting plan together gives co-parents more control over the outcome of their case, and allows them to take into account the unique needs of their children and family. As long as the court finds that the parenting plan is in the best interest of your child(ren), it will likely be incorporated into a custody order.
In requiring parenting plans, Maryland Courts encourage predictability and structure for minor children, while also decreasing parents’ need for court intervention to resolve conflicts.
What If My Co-Parent and I Cannot Agree?
Despite their best efforts, co-parents may reach an impasse. If you cannot reach an agreement on the details of your parenting plan, then you must submit to the court a Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time, which outlines
the topic areas where parties agree and disagree.
Consulting an Experienced Attorney
A family law attorney can help you develop a comprehensive parenting plan, and they can ensure you have covered all the legal requirements and considered the different available options. If communication between you and the other parent tends to break down, a mediator (who may be an attorney) can also help you work together toward a solution.
For years, Bethany Shechtel, Esquire has guided clients through child custody issues. If you need help creating a parenting plan, modifying your current custody order, or have any child custody questions, contact
BGS Law, LLC today.
- Maryland Courts: https://mdcourts.gov/family/parentingplans
- Maryland Parenting Plan Tool: https://mdcourts.gov/sites/default/files/court-forms/ccdr109.pdf
- Maryland Parenting Plan Instructions: https://mdcourts.gov/sites/default/files/court-forms/ccdrin109.pdf
- Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time: https://mdcourts.gov/sites/default/files/court-forms/ccdr110.pdf