Child Visitation and Custody Laws in Maine
When a married couple with children separates in Maine, life can get complicated for a while.
Balancing the immediate and future needs of the children with suitable child custody and parenting arrangements is often extremely challenging.
Parental rights and responsibilities are treated very seriously in Maine and it is important to understand what is expected of you.
Maine child visitation laws provide direction and guidance for parental rights and responsibilities, outlining your obligations so that you can make the right decisions for your family.
Ultimately, decisions must be made in the best interests of the children – rather than what is best for parents – but the courts in Maine know that a workable solution that is convenient for both parents is important too.
So, where do you start with child visitation laws in Maine?
Table of Contents
- What are child visitation rights?
- Who can claim child visitation rights in Maine other than parents?
- How can you make a legally enforceable visitation schedule?
- Does the court treat mothers and fathers equally in custody cases?
- How are custody decisions made in Maine?
What are child visitation rights?
“Child visitation” is a term used in child custody cases in Maine and elsewhere around the U.S.
Visitation generally refers to the rights of a non-custodial parent to see their child. It may also refer to temporary custody granted for a specific period to an otherwise non-custodial parent or relative (such as a grandparent).
Title 19-A of the Maine Revised Statutes outlines the laws on visitation and custody issues in the state.
Most decisions about child custody and parenting in Maine are made with the general assumption that a child’s “best interests” are best served by spending time with both biological parents and for both parents to be involved in decisions about the child’s upbringing.
Even a biological parent who is denied custody generally maintains visitation rights in Maine unless there is a good reason for these to be removed.
When we consider visitation rights for relatives other than the biological parents of the child, the issues become more complex and decisions are frequently challenged.
Who can claim child visitation rights in Maine other than parents?
A biological parent of a minor child in Maine can claim visitation rights as part of a divorce, parentage or custody case. Alternatively, a petition for visitation can be filed if there is no open case.
Besides the biological parents, visitation rights may be claimed by grandparents if at least one of the child’s parents or legal guardians has died and there is a sufficient existing relationship between the grandparent and the child (or a reasonable effort has been made to establish a relationship).
Visitation rights may NOT generally be claimed by the following parties in Maine:
- Grandparents (after the divorce of their child)
- Grandparents (if their child was never married)
- Any other interested party after the termination of parental rights
Exceptions do exist. Third-party visitation laws in Maine are far from clear-cut. If a valid case can be made for visitation rights in the best interests of the child, this may be considered by the Maine courts depending on the circumstances.
In most cases, the death of one or both parents can strengthen the case for visitation rights for another interested party.
Visitation rights for grandparents in Maine
Grandparents are treated somewhat differently from other relatives under Maine law when it comes to visitation rights.
Special statutes authorize child visitation rights in a range of circumstances. Even if a grandparent does not meet the requirements under these statutes, if a case can be shown to be in the best interests of the child, it is likely to receive serious consideration by the courts.
Can other interested parties or relatives be granted visitation rights in Maine?
Generally speaking, no other relatives or interested parties other than those specified above will be granted visitation rights to a child unless there are special circumstances.
Moreover, once a child is given up for adoption or parental rights are lost, visitation rights may not be granted to a biological parent or previous guardian.
How can you make a legally enforceable visitation schedule?
Your Maine child custody lawyer will have a deep understanding of the relevant laws on visitation rights in the state.
Issues involving children are generally given a high degree of importance in divorces and separations. It is important to be clear on the rules and follow the professional advice provided when working out a visitation schedule with the other parent.
Otherwise, if the provisions set forth by the laws are not followed, the schedule may be rejected by the court. Notably, if it is deemed to be anything other than in the child’s best interests, it is unlikely to be approved.
Ultimately, by putting the needs of the child first in all decisions, you should remain compliant with the visitation laws and, most importantly, help to keep your child happy.
Does the court treat mothers and fathers equally in custody cases?
According to Title 19-A of the Maine Revised Statutes, the court recognizes that a child has the right to be nurtured and cared for by both parents and to spend adequate time with both.
In this respect, parents have equal custody, parenting and visitation rights and no favoritism is granted to mothers or fathers based on gender. This applies to all family law matters in Maine.
However, if a mother or father is shown to be unfit to parent or presents a risk of endangering a child (e.g., due to domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, child neglect or substance abuse), the court will act to protect the child.
Supervised visitation can be arranged when a parent is considered to be a risk to a child but retains some visitation rights.
How are custody decisions made in Maine?
As already mentioned, the courts in Maine will make all custody decisions based on the best interests of the child.
But “best interests” is a subjective term, so how is a decision made by a judge?
Generally speaking, the following factors will be taken into consideration when deciding on what is best for the health, well-being and upbringing of the child:
- The child’s age and level of maturity – if he or she is old enough to express a preference, this will be taken into account.
- Each parent’s relationship with the child and the relationship with other significant individuals in the family (grandparents, etc.)
- The suitability of the present living arrangements and the prospects for future stability – often important considerations for where the child lives and spends the most time.
- The motivation of each parent and their capacity to provide love, affection, and guidance for the child.
- The child’s level of adjustment to the present home, school, and community – the courts want to minimize upheaval for the child if possible.
- The capacity of each parent to commit to and cooperate with frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent.
- The potential effects of awarding sole authority over the child’s upbringing to just one parent (if sole custody is requested).
- Any history of domestic violence, abuse.
If you need assistance with any aspect of child visitation, child custody or divorce in Maine, book a consultation with a lawyer at The Maine Divorce Group by reaching us directly online or call us at 207-230-6597 today.
Call 207-230-6597 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.
We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.
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