Maryland courts now require parenting plan in custody cases

Divorce is difficult for anyone, but especially for a child — now, Maryland courts are requiring parents in custody cases to file a written plan describing how they will care for, and make decisions, about their child.

Requiring a parenting plan will help the court ensure the adults involved in custody matters focus on the best interest of a child, or children. It is a legal template commonly used in other states.

“Parenting plans reflect recommendations made by mental health and child development experts to help insulate children from adverse effects of conflict between parents,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, in a news release.

Parents — and a mediator, if needed — develop the parenting plan, which is filed with the court. Ultimately, the court decides if the plan is in the best interest of the child.

At the beginning of the process, the Maryland Parenting Plan Tool lists issues and things for parents to consider when determining their expectations in caring for their child: education priorities, vacation and holiday planning, how the parents will share and access information about the child, how the parents will communicate with each other and how and where children will be exchanged following visitation.

If there are areas of disagreements, the parents will complete a Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time, which will narrow the focus of issues that are in need of adjudication.

Each parent can propose a solution they believe is in the best interest of the child, before a judge will make a decision on contested custody and access.

The Maryland judiciary developed a brochure called Maryland Parenting Plan Instructions, which is also available online.

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