Knowledge of the family law system in Maine helps you navigate your divorce and the judicial system with greater ease and less anxiety.
If you have minor children and are planning on divorce, or are already underway, there are key concepts that impact you, your children, and your co-parent as you begin to create your new family setting.
Our law firm routinely works with clients and families moving through and beyond the divorce process. Following are important points for you to understand about divorce in Maine:
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For parents, divorce and the likelihood of seeing their children less can be upsetting. In Maine, as in other states, there are rules and procedures around deciding who has authority to make decisions on behalf of children and where children will reside.
In Maine, the legal authority to make decisions on behalf your child and to provide housing are part of what are called “parental rights and responsibilities.” This term replaces the phrase “child custody” in Maine, which may still be used in other parts of the US. In our state, these important responsibilities are divided into three types, depending on family circumstances. These include:
The best residence for a child before, during, and after divorce is one that provides stability, security, and nurturance. Depending upon parenting rights, decisions around housing may or may not be shared.
In Maine, the home in which a child will spend the majority of their time is called a “primary residence.” With shared parenting, the child may move between two homes equally with shared primary residence, or parents may decide children will live most of the time in one home, while frequently visiting the other.
Along with residential decisions, parents are expected to agree to a parent-child contact schedule, or what would otherwise be called a parenting plan or visitation schedule. Maine courts favor parenting plans that offer consistent, predictable contact with each parent. As well, the schedule is expected to be geared around the time and experience of the child—not used as an instrument to curry favor with a child by one parent or the other. Ideally, courts look for parenting schedules that provide meaningful contact with each parent on an ongoing basis.
Over time, the parent-child contact schedule will likely change. As children age, their needs change, as do the lives of each parent. The best parent-child schedules provide firm structure for co-parents and children while also allowing room for revision as life progresses.
Remember—during divorce Maine courts prefer parents come to agreement on arrangements concerning the care, upbringing, and residence of their children. Agreements worked out between a divorcing couple are almost always more successful than parenting arrangements decided by the Court. That said, in cases where parents who are splitting up cannot amicably agree on how to share parenting responsibilities, or if there has been abuse in the home, the Court will decide the issue based on what are called “the best interests of the child.”
In all family law matters, Maine courts are guided by the best interests of the child. Although the term is self-evident, the real meaning of “best interests” goes much deeper.
When called upon to make decisions about parental rights and responsibilities, the Maine legislature has defined the criteria by which the best interest of a child can be determined by the Court. There is a substantial list of factors which include:
During their review, the Court is required to consider both parents equally. If needed, a judge will decide the parenting arrangement, shared, allocated, or sole, that the family will follow into the future. To assist in that decision, the Court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL).
Divorce is never an easy time for a family. Dissolution of a marriage can often mean frustration, emotional upset, and stress. When parents cannot find common ground to make important decisions on behalf of the children, the family court will assist, often with the help of a guardian ad litem.
During their investigation, the GAL will speak with both parents and the children.
A GAL is expected to remain neutral and does not represent either party but acts as an independent fact finder who presents a written report or testimony to the court regarding their findings. A GAL is paid for by the divorcing couple.
While divorce is rarely easy, it does offer the opportunity to create a new, hopeful family future. While things won’t be the same, and transition can be tough, most families find their new set point and stability. Whether you choose the collaborative divorce process, mediation, or if you make use of the court system, a skilled divorce attorney can help you focus on the important issues at hand to create a bright future ahead.
Although all divorces follow the same path, no two divorces are exactly alike. When you have questions about separation, divorce, or parental rights, the Main Divorce Group provides dedicated guidance and representation to help you through the divorce process.
Contact us online or call us directly at (207) 618-6220 today.
The attorneys at The Maine Divorce Group understand how emotional and complex the divorce process can be and we are here to help.
Call to speak with a member of our team today, who can discuss your case and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.
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