Topics on this page:
- What is a parenting plan?
- Getting started
- The parties agree, now what?
- What if the parties cannot agree?
What is a parenting plan?
The purpose of a parenting plan is to facilitate an agreement between the parents on how to handle child custody issues. Parties can use a parenting plan as a tool to make decisions that are best for their child, rather than asking a judge to decide what arrangement is best. Parenting plans address common issues of disagreement such as:
- When the child spends time with each parent (physical custody or parenting time)
- How to make important decisions about the future (legal custody or decision-making authority)
- How to resolve conflicts
To assist parents in developing a parenting plan, the Maryland Courts have developed the Maryland Parenting Plan Instructions and Maryland Parenting Plan Tool. Parties will receive a copy of these at the first court appearance. They are also available on the Maryland Courts website.
Parties can work separately, together, or with the help of a mediator to develop a parenting plan. The goal is to develop a plan that reflects the best interest of the child and is workable and acceptable to the parties. The Parenting Plan Tool suggests some things that the parents should keep in mind when working on a plan, including:
- Stability and the foreseeable health and welfare of the child
- Frequent, regular, and continuing contact with parties who can act in the child’s best interest
- Whether and how parties who do not live together will share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child
- The child’s relationship with each party, any siblings, other relatives, and individuals who are or may become important in the child’s life
- The child’s physical and emotional security and protection from conflict and violence
- The child’s developmental needs, including physical safety, emotional security, positive self-image, interpersonal skills, and intellectual and cognitive growth
- The day-to-day needs of the child (including education, socialization, culture and religion, food, shelter, clothing, and mental and physical health)
- How to:
- place the child’s needs above the parties’ needs
- protect the child from the negative effects of any conflict between the parties
- maintain the child’s relationship with the parties, siblings, other relatives, or other individuals who have or likely may have a significant relationship with the child
- Age of the child
- Any military deployment of a party and its effect, if any, on the parent-child relationship
- Any prior court orders or agreements
- Each party’s role and tasks related to the child and how, if at all, those roles and tasks have changed
- The location of each party’s home as it relates to their ability to coordinate parenting time, school, and activities
- The parties’ relationship with each other, including
- how they communicate with each other
- whether they can co-parent without disrupting the child’s social and school life
- how the parties will resolve any disputes in the future without the need for court intervention
- The child’s preference, if age-appropriate
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 9-204.1
The parties agree, now what?
After the parties complete a parenting plan, they should submit the written agreement to the court. A judge will review the agreement while considering the best interest of the child factors. After that, the parenting plan will be incorporated into a court order, and the terms of the parenting plan will be enforceable.
What if the parties cannot agree?
If the parties cannot come to an agreement, they must file a Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time. The purpose of this Joint Statement is to pinpoint areas of agreement and disagreement. The Joint Statement is available on the Maryland Courts website or from the clerk of court. A mediator can assist with preparing the Joint Statement.
The Joint Statement should be filed at least 10 days before a settlement conference, or 20 days before trial (if there is no settlement conference). The parties have specific deadlines for preparing the Joint Statement:
- 30 days before the deadline: parties must prepare and exchange proposed Joint Statements
- 15 days before deadline: plaintiff must serve on defendant a proposed Joint Statement that fairly reflects the positions of the parties
- Defendant must file the Joint Statement by the deadline
If the defendant refuses to sign the Joint Statement, they should file the Joint Statement and a written statement of their objections.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 9-204.2