Divorce is a complex issue under any circumstances, but when a Maryland couple has children, navigating the terrain takes on greater urgency. Often, there is a disagreement over child custody. Once that is settled, there must also be a parenting plan. Factors that are considered as part of a parenting plan vary and will impact the entire process. Understanding what needs to be in the parenting plan is key.

Fundamental parts of a parenting plan include legal custody. That is also referred to as decision-making authority. The basics include the child’s education, providing medical care, what type of religious instruction the child will have, and the participation in extracurricular activities. Some parents want the child to attend a public school; others want a private school. This can spark disagreement and must be discussed. Deciding on the medical care provider, how notifications will occur and for what reason is also essential. For extracurricular activities, it can range from what sports the child will take part in – for example, some parents might disagree on tackle football – and how often the activities will take place.

When a marriage ends, there is likely to have been dispute leading up to the parting of the ways. Communication may be awkward or lead to a rehashing of past arguments. Still, with children, there should be a communication protocol between the parents and for the parent who is not with the child at the time to speak to or connect with the child. Information must be shared about the child’s well-being, education, healthcare and activities. The parenting time will need to be addressed such as when the child will be with each parent. This can include weekend visitation, summer vacations, holidays and other times of the year. The exchange of the child for this visitation and how the transportation will be done is also imperative.

Divorce is hard for children. Parents are advised to avoid making the situation worse by letting their own feelings negatively impact the child. Encouraging a relationship with the other parent is beneficial in most cases. If there are reasons to protect the child such as abuse, this too should be weighed. As the case moves forward, it is wise to think about the benefits of legal advice from a qualified and experienced family law professional. This can be useful from the start and throughout the case to its conclusion.