The standard Maryland parenting plan rarely addresses individual families’ unique circumstances or goals for custody. As a result, it does little to help co-parents avoid conflict when an impasse in decision-making inevitably arises. The good news is that this does not have to be the case for you.
The Maryland Courts’ Parenting Plan Series: Parenting Plan Tips encourages you to consider every issue that could possibly arise from the date the judge signs the parenting agreement until the day your child turns 18. Though by no means exhaustive, the video shares a few examples that provide an idea of the types of issues to expect and address.
Holidays, long weekends and meaningful events
For many divorced parents, co-parenting runs fairly smooth until the first holiday or long weekend rolls around, at which point the arguments over semantics begin. For instance, the parenting plan may state that Mom gets the children on Thanksgiving and Dad gets them on Christmas. However, if may not state whether the holiday begins the morning of or the night before. For parents who wish to soak up every minute with a shared child, this minor omission can make a huge difference.
Another issue to consider is long weekends. On a three-day weekend, will the child split time with Mom and Dad, or will whoever’s weekend it is get the child for the whole period?
Finally, say your family — or your ex’s — has long-standing traditions that do not coincide with typical holidays. If you want to guarantee your child’s presence at certain events, address them in your parenting plan.
Sports may eventually consume most of your child’s time. When they begin to, it is important that you have a plan that addresses who will take him or her to practices and games. If a sport requires your child to travel, who will go with him or her?
Though exchanges may not seem like a big deal right now, they may become an issue if you become the one who does all the transportation, or if you constantly have to drive an hour out of your way to pick your child up from your ex’s new home. Though places of exchange may change with time, set ground rules. For instance, if a parent moves more than 30 minutes out of the way, said parent must drive at least halfway to meet the other.
Finally, tackle the inevitable issue of communication. If you want to say goodnight to your child each night he or she is with the other parent, bring this up before your plan becomes final. Address ground rules for your child’s current or future cell phone use as it pertains to parental communication. For instance, include a provision that requires each parent to respect the other’s parenting time, and to not blow up the child’s phone with texts or calls during periods of non-custody.
An experienced attorney can help you think of any and all issues that may arise and address them in your parenting plan. Though there is no law that requires you to do so, the Maryland Courts encourage you to be as specific as possible.