Parental Rights Laws in Maine
When spouses with children choose to divorce, one of the biggest issues may be child custody. Child custody is also referred to as parental rights and responsibilities. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 19-A, Chapter 55 lists the laws that apply to parental rights. According to section 1651:
The father and mother are the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are jointly entitled to the care, custody, control, services and earnings of their children. Neither parent has any rights paramount to the rights of the other with reference to any matter affecting their children.
This law means that both parents have an equal right to custody of their child as well as an equal responsibility to care for that child. Though this law serves as a basis for child custody, there are many factors that can affect the judge's final ruling when the issue is taken to court. For assistance with your child custody case, call WTB Law to speak with a Maine divorce attorney.
Maine Child Custody Orders
When the court makes decisions regarding child custody, it always looks to determine what is best what is in the best interest of the child or children before it issues an order. The following findings are used in the process:
- Compromises made during mediation are usually done within the child's best interest
- Domestic violence is a serious crime and a child should not be involved in a situation where it occurs
- Unless it is determined by the court otherwise, it is always within the child's best interest to spend an equal amount of times with each parent
When determining who should take custody of the child, the court will look at all the factors of the case and make a decision based on what would be best for the child or children. Any of the following orders may be issued:
Shared custody – both parents are given equal custody and equal rights when making decisions for their child or children. In many cases, one parent is still given primary residence meaning their home is the child's primary home. It is not uncommon for no primary residence be established either, however.
Allocated custody – This means that parents split their rights and responsibilities. Rather than shared custody where both parents are equal, allocated custody assigns some duties to one parent and others to the other parent. For example, one parent may be in charge of education and support while the other is put in charge of medical bills and doctor visits for the child.
Sole custody – When one parent is the sole guardian of a child, this is referred to as sole custody. A parent with sole custody may still receive financial support from the other party but they are in charge of providing the child with a home, making important decisions and the general care of the child. This is usually issued only when it would be in the child's best interest to have minimal or no contact with one parent.
Third-party custody – If it would be in the best interest of the child that neither parent is given custody, the court may award custody of a minor child to a third-party or an institution.
To determine what type of order will be given, courts look at the following factors to determine the best interest of the child. Under Maine law, section 1653(3), the following factors are considered:
- The child's age
- The relationship between the child and their parents as well as any other person who might affect the child's welfare
- If the child is old mature enough, their personal preference
- The child's current living arrangements and their duration and adequacy
- How stable any proposed living arrangements may be for the child
- The ability for parties involved to provide the child with love, affection and guidance
- The child's present situation including home, school and community life and how well-adjusted they are to it
- The ability for each parent to allow and encourage contact with the other parent
- The ability for the parent's to cooperate in caring for the child
- The parents' willingness to cooperate with each other
- How sole custody would affect the child
- Whether any domestic abuse has or may occur in any household
- The presence of any sex offenders in either household
In addition, the court does not assign any more weight to the gender of the parent in determining custody. This means that a mother has no more right to custody than the father of the child. The court will also give special consideration to cases involving domestic violence. For example, the departure of one parent form the family home will not be considered if that party left after they were harmed or threatened.
When the court makes the order for child custody it must include the following provisions:
- Allocation – How rights and responsibilities will be allocated (sole custody, shared custody, etc.). If the court awarded shared parental rights and responsibilities, these must be defined
- Conditions of contact – If domestic abuse is involved, the court will state what conditions the parents may have in order to have contact with their child
- Child support – The court will issue a provision for child support and what party will be responsible for what payment. If no child support is ordered, a statement of the reasoning for this must be provided.
- Access to records – A statement must be made that each parent is allowed access to the child's records including medical, dental, school records and other information regardless of who has primary residence. If there is a reason that one parent should be denied access to the child's records, this should be given.
- Violation – A notice that violating the order may result in a finding of contempt and other penalties.
Maine Parental Rights and Responsibilities Lawyer
For more information about parental rights and responsibilities, contact our office right now. Whether you are contemplating divorce or looking to modify your existing child custody agreement, we can help you. We always work to help families reach compromises that everyone is happy with.