What types of parental rights and responsibilities arrangements are there?
There are 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 wellbeing.1 That means parents have to make joint decisions about the major issues of the child’s life, like where the child will live and go to school. Parents who share parental rights and responsibilities have to keep each other informed about events or changes in the child’s life and consult each other (if possible) before making decisions related to raising the child. The child can live with one parent as the primary residence or it can be split between both parents. A child whose parents have this arrangement will divide his/her time between each parent’s house, but the time spent living at each parent’s house may not be equal.2
• Sole parental rights and responsibilities means that one parent has the right to make all the decisions about the child’s wellbeing, and the child’s primary residence will be with that parent.3 The parent who is not granted sole rights and responsibilities still has to help pay for the child’s expenses (child support), and could be allowed to visit the child, but s/he is not allowed to make decisions about the child’s wellbeing. The judge will award sole parental rights and responsibilities if he or she believes shared parental rights and responsibilities might be harmful to the child. For example, the judge may award sole parental rights and responsibilities if one of the parents has been abusive.
• Allocated parental rights and responsibilities means that the judge assigns each parent the right to make certain decisions about the child’s wellbeing.4 For example, one parent may be allowed to make all the decisions regarding the child’s religious upbringing, while the other parent may have the right to decide where the child goes to school. This type of arrangement is not common, but it is a possibility.
1 M.R.S.A. 19-A §1501(5)
2 M.R.S.A. 19-A § 1653 (2)(D)(1)
3 M.R.S.A. 19-A § 1501(6)
4 M.R.S.A. 19-A § 1501(1)