Maine Child Custody Laws

Child custody laws are an important factor in the outcome of custody arrangements in Maine, especially if you are taking your case to court. To more likely receive a ruling that you are satisfied with, it helps to have an understanding of Maine's child custody laws. If you know what to expect in the courtroom, there is less room for surprises in your case. 

Maine child custody laws focus on the child's best interests when making a custody decision. 

In Maine, a huge influence behind making child custody decisions are the child's best interests. Maine courts will take several factors into consideration while determining the arrangement which will be the best fit for the child. Some of these factors include the child's health needs and their overall wellbeing. For instance, if one parent is not fit to adequately care for a child's health needs, that may affect the custody outcome. Also, if there is a history of domestic abuse or sexual offenses by a parent, that may also affect the outcome. A parent with a criminal history may be granted visitation rights, although their visitations will likely be supervised. Along with a child's health and overall wellbeing, Maine courts will also consider the child's emotional needs. A stable living situation is important for a child, so an arrangement that allows a child to continue living the same lifestyle and routine is often favored. Finally, the parents' communication skills will be factored into determining the custody arrangement. Maine courts prefer for both parents to have lots of contact with their child, and they also prefer that both parents are encouraging of this as well. If parents can prove that they are encouraging of their child to have a relationship with their other parent and that they can reach decisions concerning their child in a peaceful manner, then a Maine judge will be more likely to grant custody rights to both parents.

Types of child custody recognized in Maine

Like many other states, Maine child custody laws call for both legal and physical custody to be determined. Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make important decisions regarding the child's life. This would include decisions involving education, health care and religious practice. Physical custody refers to a parent's right to have their child living in their home on a daily basis. 

Maine courts prefer when parents are able to reach a decision on a custody arrangement on their own. If parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, Maine child custody laws require that they go to mediation before bringing their case to court. Beyond mediation, a parenting coordinator may also be appointed by the court to help the parents in creating a working parenting plan. Once brought to court, a judge is likely to order joint legal custody if parents have agreed to sharing this parental responsibility. Physical custody may also be granted to both parents on a joint basis, but parents may not necessarily be granted equal custody time. One parent may be granted primary physical custody where the child lives under one parent's roof majority of the time. Sole custody may also be granted to one parent, with adequate visitation rights granted to the other. 

Whether parents are living in Maine or anywhere else in the United States, it is important that they consult with an attorney who is qualified to give legal guidance on family law matters. None of this information should be considered legal advice. For family law attorneys and other professionals in Maine, check out our resources page for Maine.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.