All New Maryland Custody Cases Now Require A Parent Plan

Alexis L. Holiday, Esq.

Effective January 1, 2020, the Maryland Rules now requires all parents to complete a Parenting Plan during in any custody dispute. A Parenting Plan is a written agreement describing how parents will care for and make decisions for their child(ren). The Parenting Plan acts like any other written agreement between the parties. Decision-making authority, communication between the parents, information sharing between the parties, parenting time of each parent, transportation and exchange of the child(ren) and child care should be addressed in the Parenting Plan.

Parenting Plans are important because they reduce conflict, avoid extra costs involved with litigation and identify key areas where parents agree and disagree. The Parenting Plan is helpful for parents because it allows their decision making to be child-focused. If parents do agree on some terms, the Court will integrate those terms into its final Order if it finds that it is in the child(ren)’s best interest. A Parenting Plan tool will be provided to the parents at their first court appearance.

If by the time of trial, parents cannot agree on terms of the care for their child(ren), then parents are to complete a “Joint Statement Concerning Decision Making Authority and Parenting Time” identifying their disagreements. This Joint Statement is due 10 days before the case’s Settlement Conference. If there is no Settlement Conference, the joint statement is due 20 days before trial. At least 30 days before the due date, each party should exchange a Joint Statement identifying their disagreements regarding the care for their child(ren). Fifteen days before the due date, the Plaintiff must serve the Defendant a proposed Joint Statement that reflects both parties’ positions. If the Defendant agrees with the Plaintiff’s proposal, then the Defendant must file it with the Court before the due date. If parents do not agree on some terms, the Court is aware of these disagreements and will decide what is in the best interest of the child(ren).

The parents may work together, separately, or with a mediator to complete their Parenting Plan. A mediator or the parties’ attorneys may assist the parents in completing both the Parenting Plan tool and the Joint Statement.

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