Each state has its own laws regarding child custody and those laws get minor updates periodically. Less frequently, though, a larger change takes place. Maryland, for example, now has a requirement that each set of parents must complete something called a parenting plan. What, you may wonder, is a parenting plan and how will it impact me and my child(ren)? For answers to those questions and more, and to make sure you end up with a parenting plan that fully protects — and fosters the continued growth of – your relationship with your children, retain a skilled Maryland family law attorney.
2020 is the first year that Maryland has required parenting plans in custody cases. According to the judiciary, a parenting plan specifically is considered to be “a written agreement describing how people, called parties, will care for and make decisions about their child(ren).” In other words, it is an agreement, mutually reached by the child’s parents, that lays out exactly how decision-making and other care-related responsibilities will be handled between the parents.
Many parents may think of this as an equivalent of a “custody agreement” and, therefore, may think it’s as simple as something like, “Joint legal custody, with the mother having primary physical custody and the father to have every other weekend, spring break and summer vacations,” or like “Joint legal custody and 50-50 physical custody, with each parent having the child for alternating two-week periods.”
In reality, and as the new parenting plan rules demonstrate, a complete parenting plan covers much more than just “who has the child on which days.” It will address which parent will make medical decisions, make educational decisions, make extracurricular decisions and make religious training decisions. Your plan can designate an individual parent to have sole decision-making authority in one (or more) particular area(s), or can state that the parents will decide jointly. If you are deciding jointly, you can also name one parent to have tie-breaking authority.
Your parenting plan can also lay out how you will transport the child between homes, where exchanges will take place and who will take care of the child if you’re not available.
Having a detailed plan placed in writing benefits everyone. It benefits the parents by maximizing the number of areas where you, the parents, are deciding what’s best for your child instead of a judge deciding. An in-depth plan also reduces the potential for confusion and uncertainty, which can trigger additional conflict between the parents – and also extra litigation. It also benefits the child by minimizing the opportunities for the parents to encounter conflicts and place the child at the center of yet another conflict and legal battle.
So, what happens if my ex and I simply cannot agree?
Obviously, agreement is ideal but not all parents will be able to do that on all issues. If you cannot decide on some issues, then you can file a form with the court called a “Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time.” Then the court will either set your case for a settlement conference or for trial.
Wherever you are in the process, having the right attorney helps. If you are still in the process of formulating a parenting plan, your attorney can help you assess the fairness of a proposal that your ex has made. If you’ve reached an impasse, then your attorney can provide invaluable help in preparing for a settlement conference or trial, and in providing the advocacy you need when the process ceases being collaborative and instead becomes adversarial.
Whether you are negotiating or litigating your child custody issues, rely on the knowledge and experience of the skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.