Maine Child Custody And Visitation Guidelines
Maine family courts will not discriminate against a parent based on the parent’s gender or the child’s gender. When parents request joint custody, the Maine court will agree to the arrangement unless joint custody is not in the best interests of the child.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
In Maine the courts have replaced the term ‘custody’ with the phrase ‘parental rights and responsibilities.’ This term refers to the legal authority to care for a child and to make major decisions about the child’s life and well-being. Child custody is based on the best interests of the child, which involves:
- The child’s age;
- The child’s relationship with his/her parents;
- The child’s preference, if the child is of a sufficient age
- The child’s adjustment to his/her current home, school,
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship
between the child and the other parent;
- The stability of the child’s current living arrangements;
- Motivation of all involved parties;
- History of child abuse; and
- Any history of domestic violence.
A Maine court has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:
(a) Maine is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding; or (b) Maine was the home state of the child within 6 months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is now absent from the State — but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in Maine.
Courts in Maine will award either sole or joint custody, defined as:
Sole custody implies one parent will have legal and physical custody of a child while in a joint custody arrangement; both parents will share legal and/or physical custody of the child. When parents share legal custody, they handle medical and educational decisions for the child together.
Parental Rights in Maine
Maine provides for three basic arrangements for parental rights and responsibilities:
shared, sole, and allocated. Shared parental rights and responsibilities gives each parent an equal say in most or all of the decisions about the child’s well-being. Sole parental rights and responsibilities means that one parent has the right to make all the decisions about the child’s well-being, and the child’s primary residence will be with that parent. Allocated parental rights and responsibilities means that the judge will assigns each parent the right to make certain decisions about the child’s well-being.
- In Maine, when unmarried women face a court custody battle, they should focus on the best interests of the child and emphasize the strong mother/child relationship established with the minor child.
- An unmarried woman who has custody of a child may relocate to another state if she provides the other parent with at least 30 days’ notice of the move.
- The Maine courts make no paternity assumptions when a man is not married to the mother of his child. For an unmarried father to exercise his custody rights as a parent, he must first establish that he is in fact the father of his child.
- An unmarried father has the right to petition to the court for custody of his child. To establish custody and visitation, an unmarried father must obtain a court-enforceable order by filing a petition with the court in his county (or the county where the child lives).
Specific Rights of Fathers
Unique from other states, Maine has also granted fathers very specific rights regarding children:
Right to Custody – A father’s rights are protected during custody proceedings when they are held in Maine. The courts in Maine have found that it is in the best interest of children to be raised by both parents. The court prefers to award joint custody.
Right to Teach – A father has the right to teach his children. The father’s right and responsibility to teach his children is protected by the constitution and by Common law. It is in the best interest of children to learn from their father about their heritage, culture, religion and prepare them for the future.
Right to Love and Nurture – A father has the right to show his children love and the responsibility to nurture their abilities. A mother must allow this right. In Maine, a custody order must be followed to ensure that a father is granted this right, unless there is substantial evidence that his presence may cause the children harm. Both parents must foster a relationship between their children and the other parent.
Right to Records – As long as a father has not been found unfit, he has the right to access his child’s records. Under Maine’s revised statutes, a father must be granted access to his child’s school and medical records. Denial of access to these records by an institution or another parent is against the law. A father must also provide the mother with the same access to records as long as she retains her rights
Right to Health Care – A father has the right to decide what type of medical care his child will receive. For example, if a father’s religion deems shots unnecessary, that father has the right to deny his child those shots. The welfare of the child will be considered when a father makes health care decisions regarding his child. If the welfare of the child is threatened, a father may lose some or all of his rights. If the parents disagree on their child’s health care, custody orders will be made in the best interest of the child.
Paternity – Obligations of Fathers
In Maine Paternity may be determined upon the complaint of the mother, the alleged father, the child or the public authority chargeable by law with the support of the child. The father of a child born out of wedlock is liable to the same extent as the father of a child born in wedlock. Whether or not the child is born alive, a father is responsible for the following:
- The reasonable expense of the mother’s pregnancy and confinement;
- The education and support for the child; and
- The funeral expenses of the child.
Rights of Children Born out of Wedlock
A child born out of wedlock is the child of that child’s biological parents and is entitled to the same legal rights as a child born in lawful wedlock
Modification of Custody Orders
In Maine, either party may apply to modify a court order. As circumstances require, the Court may alter its order upon the motion of one or both of the parents, or by any person who has been granted parental rights and responsibilities under Maine law. The relocation, or intended relocation, of a child resident in Maine to another state when there exists an award of shared or allocated parental rights and responsibilities is considered a substantial change in circumstances.
Registration and Enforcement of Out of State Court Orders
If you reside outside of the state of Maine and possess a child custody determination issued by a court of another state, that order may be registered in Maine, with or without a simultaneous request for enforcement, by sending it to the appropriate court.
A Maine court will recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state if the latter court exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with Maine jurisdictional standards or the determination was made under similar factual circumstances. A Maine court may also utilize any remedy available under its jurisdiction to enforce a child custody determination made by a court of another state.
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in Maine and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
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- How To Enforce Your Rights As A Parent For Custody Of Your Children (aboutthechildrenblog.com)