On May 31, 2020 the governor of Maine signed LD 1405, which will be
effective 09/21/01 requiring a "presumption of joint custody".

Following is the bill text:

--------------------

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:
Sec. 1. 19-A MRSA §1653, sub-§1, ¶C is enacted to read:
 

C.__The Legislature finds and declares that it is the public policy of
this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact
with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their
marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to
share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to
effect this policy.

Sec. 2. 19-A MRSA §1653, sub-§2, as amended by PL 1997, c. 415, §3 and
affected by §5, is repealed.

Sec. 3. 19-A MRSA §1653, sub-§2-A is enacted to read:
 

2-A.__Parental rights and responsibilities; order.__This subsection
governs parental rights and responsibilities and court orders for
parental rights and responsibilities.

A.__The court shall follow the following order of preference, in
accordance with the best interest of the child, in ordering parental
rights and responsibilities:

(1)__To both parents jointly:
 

(a) When the parents have agreed to an award of shared parental rights
and responsibilities or so agree in open court, the court shall make
that award unless there is clear and convincing evidence that it should
not be ordered.__The court shall state in its decision the reasons for
not ordering a shared parental rights and responsibilities award agreed
to by the parents; or
 

(b)__If the parents have not already agreed to an award, the court may
require the parents to submit a plan for implementation of the award of
parental rights and responsibilities upon finding that both parents are
suitable parents;
 

(2)__To either parent; or

(3)__To a 3rd person, to a suitable society or institution for the care
and protection of children or to the department, upon a finding that
awarding parental rights and responsibilities to either or both parents
will place the child in jeopardy as defined in Title 22, section 4002,
subsection 6.

B.__In awarding primary residential care, there is a presumption
affecting the burden of proof that joint
residential care is in the best interest of a minor child.__ The court
shall follow the following order of preference in ordering a child's
primary residential care:
 

(1)__To both parents jointly:

(a)__Upon finding that both parents are suitable parents, the court may
require the parents to submit a plan for implementation of the
residential care order; or

(b)__The parents acting individually or in concert may submit a
residential care implementation plan to the court prior to the issuance
of a residential care order;
 

(2)__To either parent:

(a)__If the parents agree to an award of primary residential care to one
parent, the court shall make that award;

(b)__In designating the parent responsible for providing the child's
primary residential care, the court shall consider, among other factors,
which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing
contact with the other parent, including physical access.__The court may
not apply a preference for one parent over the other in determining the
child's primary residential care based on the parent's gender; or

(c)__If a parent requests to be designated as the parent responsible for
providing the child's primary residential care, that parent has the
burden of proof that joint residential care is not in the child's best
interest; or
 

(3)__To a 3rd person, to a suitable society or institution for the care
and protection of children or to the department, upon a finding that
awarding the child's primary residential care to either or both parents
will place the child in jeopardy as defined in Title 22, section 4002,
subsection 6.
 

C.__The court may award reasonable rights of contact with a minor child
to a 3rd person.
 

D.__The order of the court awarding parental rights and responsibilities
must include the following:

(1)__Allocated parental rights and responsibilities, shared parental
rights and responsibilities or sole parental rights and
responsibilities, according to the best interest of the child as
provided in subsection 3.__ Pursuant to paragraph B, an award of shared
parental rights and responsibilities may include either an allocation of
the child's primary residential care to one parent and rights of
parent-child contact to the other parent or a sharing of the child's
primary residential care by both parents as provided in paragraph B;
 

(2)__Conditions of parent-child contact in cases involving domestic
abuse as provided in subsection 6;

(3)__A provision for child support as provided in subsection 8 or a
statement of the reasons for not ordering child support;

(4)__A statement that each parent must have access to records and
information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to,
medical, dental and school records and other information on school
activities, whether or not the child resides with the parent, unless
that access is found not to be in the best interest of the child or that
access is found to be sought for the purpose of causing detriment to the
other parent. If that access is not ordered, the court shall state in
the order its reasons for denying that access;

(5)__A statement that violation of the order may result in a finding of
contempt and imposition of sanctions as provided in subsection 7;
 

(6)__A statement of the definition of shared parental rights and
responsibilities contained in section 1501, subsection 5, if the order
of the court awards shared parental rights and responsibilities; and
 

(7)__If the court declines to enter an order awarding joint primary
residential care pursuant to this section, a statement of reasons for
denial of an award of joint residential care.

An order modifying a previous order is not required to include
provisions of the previous order that are not modified.

E.__The order of the court may not include a requirement that the State
pay for the defendant to attend a batterers' intervention program
unless the program is certified under section 4014.

Sec. 4. 19-A MRSA §1653, sub-§7, as enacted by PL 1995, c. 694, Pt. B,
§2 and affected by Pt. E, §2, is amended to read:

7. Violation of order concerning parental rights and responsibilities
and contact. Either parent may petition the court for a hearing on the
issue of noncompliance with the order issued under subsection 2 2-A. If
the court finds that a parent has violated a part of the order, the
court may find that parent in contempt and may:

A. Require additional or more specific terms and conditions consistent
with the order;

B. Order that additional visitation be provided for a parent to take the
place of visitation that was wrongfully denied; or

C. Order a parent found in contempt to pay a forfeiture of at least
$100.
 
 
 

SUMMARY

This bill establishes the policy that parents should be awarded shared
parental rights and responsibilities unless the court finds that the
joint responsibility would not be in the child's best interest. The
court must provide that the parents equally share the responsibility for
providing their child's residential care, unless the court makes a
finding that the equal sharing is not in the child's best interest. The
parents may agree to a sharing of parental rights and responsibilities,
including the provision of residential care, which the court must accept
or provide written reasons why the agreement is not in the child's best
interest.