When a couple decides to break off their relationship or get a divorce, the situation is most challenging for the children. Minors from broken homes are negatively affected by the conflict between their parents. In most cases, the child wants both parents to be part of his/her life and the court too does not wish to deprive the child from the affection of either parent. In 2020, Maryland family courts made the creation of a parenting plan compulsory for all cases related to child custody. Whoever wants to claim custody of a child in a divorce and otherwise, or wishes to contest an existing parenting arrangement must come up with a feasible parenting plan to support their petition.
The requirement of submitting a parenting plan applies to biological, adoptive, and de facto parents, as well as legal guardians. The parenting plan is a legal template that allows the family court to ensure that parents have the best interests of their child in mind. The document outlines various childcare matters concerning legal and physical custody. It gives parents the opportunity to exercise control over the upbringing of their child rather than relying on strict court orders.
You and your ex can draft the parenting plan on your own or seek the assistance of a professional mediator/lawyer, which is recommended if you two are not on friendly terms. The parenting plan can be brief or as detailed as you may prefer. A comprehensive parenting plan shall help cope with potential disputes that may arise later on.
Family Law Attorney mentions key topics to address in your parenting plan:
Nature of Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangement. With sole physical custody, the child gets to live permanently with one parent, while the other may or may not be allotted visitation rights. With joint physical custody, the child gets to live with both parents for equal amounts of time. The parents can decide when and how the child shall spend time with each of them. The parent who gets sole physical custody is in charge of handling the child’s day to day needs, such as commute to school and nutrition.
One parent may be granted the upper hand in deciding how trips and visits will be scheduled. You and your ex can also decide the optimum method of communicating any concerns or adjustments regarding previously finalized arrangements. You may work out ways to keep the exchanges civil and prioritize the child’s happiness.
Nature of Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to the authority of making major and significant decisions about the child’s life. Joint legal custody means that both parents will have an equal say in the upbringing of the child, whereas sole legal custody limits those rights to one parent. Your parenting plan may include instructions for who shall provide the final verdict under different circumstances. For instance, a parent who is singlehandedly providing financial support to the child should be given preference in matters of education and healthcare.
In another scenario, decisions about personal matters like religion, principles, and curfews are more suited for a parent with primary physical custody. If either parent is aiming for sole physical and legal custody, he/she must justify their case in court. While the court encourages involvement of both parents in the child’s life, custody rights for either can be revoked if evidence indicates that they are unfit for childcare.
John Adams is a paralegal who writes about emotional and physical issues faced by children and adults. He helps his readers overcome personal injuries and traumas, by encouraging them to raise their voice. He aims to reach out to individuals who are unaware of their legal rights, and make the world a better place.