Parenting Plans are now Required in Maryland if You Have Minor Children.
As of January 1, 2020, Maryland requires that any case involving custody of a minor child or children include a completed, signed Parenting Plan. This applies to any case where parties are seeking to establish custody – new custody filings, custody modifications, and divorce filings.
Having a Parenting Plan (which is a written and signed legal document separate from a Marital Settlement Agreement or MSA), allows the parties to discuss and agree to multiple parental issues on the upbringing of their minor child(ren), including decision-making authority and parenting time, ensuring that their decisions are in the best interests of the child(ren). The Plan also covers issues such as stability, day-to-day needs, co-parenting, information sharing, protection from conflict between the parties, communication, coordination of time with the children, modifications to the Plan, etc.
It is in everyone’s best interest for all of these important family matters to be established in writing so there isn’t any unnecessary confusion that could cause conflict or disruption in the child(ren)’s lives. If for some reason the parties cannot come to an agreement, they must complete and file a form with the Court called a “Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time” (available on the Maryland Court website). The form is intended to identify the areas where the parties agree and disagree. Not being in full agreement creates additional steps, including service on the other party, possible parenting class, mediation, etc., which may then cause the filing to be considered a contested matter. More information on what is required if the parties cannot come to an agreement may be found in Md. Rule 9-204.2 and on the Maryland Court’s website (link below).
Overall, the main goal of having a Parenting Plan is for the parties involved to create their own agreed, workable plan instead of having the Court make decisions on what is in the best interest(s) of their minor child(ren). Having an executed (signed by both parties) Parenting Plan will show the Court that the parties are willing and able to work together to put their child(ren)’s needs and feelings above their own. Once filed with the Court, the Judge will review the terms of the Parenting Plan and, if it meets the best interests standards for the child(ren), the Plan will be incorporated into an enforceable court order or judgment. More information on Parenting Plans may be found on the Maryland Judiciary website: https://www.courts.state.md.us/sites/default/files/import/family/pdfs/mdparentingplanpacket.pdf