Utah Divorce Code 30-3-10.8
30-3-10.8. Parenting plan–Filing—Modifications
(1) In any proceeding under this chapter, including actions for paternity, a party requesting joint custody, joint legal or physical custody, or any other type of shared parenting arrangement, shall file and serve a proposed parenting plan at the time of the filing of their original petition or at the time of filing their answer or counterclaim.
(2) In proceedings for a modification of custody provisions or modification of a parenting plan, a proposed parenting plan shall be filed and served with the petition to modify, or the answer or counterclaim to the petition to modify.
(3) A party who files a proposed parenting plan in compliance with this section may move the court for an order of default to adopt the plan if the other party fails to file a proposed parenting plan as required by this section.
(4) Either party may file and serve an amended proposed parenting plan according to the rules for amending pleadings.
(5) The parent submitting a proposed parenting plan shall attach a verified statement that the plan is proposed by that parent in good faith.
(6) Both parents may submit a parenting plan which has been agreed upon. A verified statement, signed by both parents, shall be attached.
(7) If the parents file inconsistent parenting plans, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child, who may, if necessary, file a separate parenting plan reflecting the best interests of the child.
(8) When one or both parents are a servicemember, the parenting plan shall be consistent with Subsection 30-3-10.9(10). If after a parenting plan is adopted, one or both parents become servicemembers, as soon as practical, the parents shall amend the existing parenting plan to comply with Subsection 30-3-10.9(10).
What are parenting plans and why are they important?
As a newly separated mom or dad, you may be questioning what your child’s living situations will be. More importantly, how you and any co-parent will make decisions on behalf of your child. Utah law requires that divorced couples looking for joint custody of their children draft a mutually created co-parenting plan. This document covers vital information including visitation routines, as well as resolutions should there be any conflicts about where the child will primarily live and parenting time. Utah courts generally mandate that separating partners come to an arrangement on their own concerning physical as well as legal custody. The latter of which worries decisions concerning education and learning, religious beliefs, health and wellness and other of life’s’ main concerns. The underlying goal is that parents who work together and make decisions will be able to stay amicable. A well-crafted parenting plan will help reduce conflict that can be stressful to any kids that were born before or during the marriage. In general, if you can come to your own agreements, you stand a better chance of being happy with the results. As opposed to judgments that can be enforced from the courts or through a mediator. No one knows your children as you do. Both parents should be working towards what is best for the children. Taking into account their likes, dislikes, preferred living situations, hobbies, interests, educational needs and desired social setting.
What you should know about parenting plans in Utah
Parents beginning the divorce process with minor children have additional issues to address. In many areas, courts prioritize the interests of children above the preferences of the divorcing couples. In Utah, the law requires parents to submit a parenting plan. The only exception is when only one parent will fully receive both legal and physical custody and thus the other parent will be completely out of the picture. Otherwise, no matter how minimal one parent’s anticipated contact with the children, you will need a parenting plan.
According to the law, your parenting plan must cover certain mandatory topics. These include a schedule for the child’s residence and visitation dates, which parent will have the last word on particular types of decisions and a process for handling the situation if one parent wants to move away. The plan must also contain a provision detailing how the parents will address any disputes over parenting decisions.
What else to include
Additionally, your parenting plan may include any other topics you deem important. These topics will depend on your family’s particular circumstances. While parents have a great deal of flexibility in coming up with the plan that is best for them and their children, the law does place several limits. For example, the decision-making provisions cannot supersede the legal rule of leaving day-to-day decisions to the parent with whom the child resides at the moment. Likewise, in an emergency, the parent who is with the child can make the necessary decisions.
When to submit your plan
Generally, you should submit a parenting plan along with your other papers when you file for divorce. The other parent may then submit an alternative plan with his or her response. You may also choose to come up with a joint parenting plan if you are able to agree. You can do this as part of your divorce agreement or separately. You must also file a new plan when you ask the court to modify an existing plan. Each divorce is highly individual, especially when children are involved. Consulting an experienced family law attorney can help you develop an effective parenting plan that meets legal standards and works for you and your children.
How do I make my Utah parenting plan / child custody agreement?
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with a Utah Divorce Attorney like those at Ascent Law LLC or legal professional and have them create it.
How can I use the law to help me as I make my Utah custody agreement?
Being familiar with the state legislation as it applies to your case will give you an advantage when developing your parenting plan and prepare you for what to expect from the court, improving your chances for a successful outcome. The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation in the State of Utah can be found in the Utah Code, Title 30, Husband and Wife, Chapter 3, Divorce. The law defines the different types of custody and other terms used by the court, outlines the methods the court uses to determine custody, and details many of the procedures you will need to comply with in your case.
What kind of custody does the State of Utah prefer to award?
The State of Utah does not hold a preference as to the type of custody parents have, whether it is joint legal custody, joint physical custody or sole custody. Instead, the court considers a preponderance of the evidence and uses the widest discretion, with the child’s best interests as a main concern, when making a ruling on a custodial matter such as a parenting plan (30-3-10.2.5). The State of Utah considers the best interests of the child to be paramount when ruling on child custody cases.
In Utah, how does the court decide what the child’s “best interests” are?
The court will consider all relevant factors (30-3-10) when determining the child’s best interests, including:
• The moral standards and past conduct of each of the parents.
• Which parent is more suited to act in the child’s best interests.
• Which parent is more likely to allow and encourage frequent contact between the child and the other parent.
• The nature of the relationships between the child and each parent.
• The quality and depth of the emotional bonds between the child and each parent.
• The child’s development and emotional needs, and which parent is able to meet those needs better.
• The ability of the parents to put their child’s needs and welfare above everything else.
• The ability of the parents to work together to agree on issues that affect the child’s best interests.
• The history of the child’s care and whether or not both parents participated in raising the child previously, and which parent acted as the child’s primary caregiver.
• The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes to each other and to the child’s school.
• The preference of the child if the child is of an appropriate age and maturity level to voice an intelligent opinion. Special consideration will be given to the requests of children sixteen or older. The requests of children are considered but are not the sole determinant.
• The composure of the parents and their willingness to protect the child from parental conflict and drama.
• Whether or not the parents are able to cooperate with each other and make joint decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
• Any history of (or the potential for) domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, kidnapping, or any other actions that have had or would have a negative or harmful effect on the child.
• Any other factors the court finds to be relevant.
In Utah, what is the purpose of a parenting plan / custody agreement?
Utah law requires parents seeking shared custody to submit a parenting plan to the court, and allows parents in other types of cases to submit one, as well.
• The objective of a parenting plan in the State of Utah (30-3-10.9.1) is to:
• Provide for the physical care of the child
• Maintain the child’s emotional well-being
• Be developed in a manner that allows the plan to adjust as the child grows
• Delegate parental authority, rights, and responsibilities
• Minimize the child’s exposure to parental conflict
• Serve the best interests of the child
Parents may work together and submit a parenting plan they mutually agree on, or, if that is not possible, parents may submit proposed parenting plans, individually, which the court may or may not accept.
What should I include in my Utah parenting plan / custody agreement?
In Utah, a parenting plan should contain the following components (30-3-10.9):
• A method for dispute resolution
• An allocation of parental authority, responsibilities, and decision making powers involving the child’s education, health care, and religious upbringing
• Residential provisions for the child and a child visitation schedule that specifies when the child will spend time with each parent on a regular basis, holidays, and vacation times
• Stipulations regarding parental relocation
• A statement regarding the required exchange of information between the parents
• Provisions to minimize disruption in the child’s life and education
• Provisions for the maintenance and health insurance of the child
• Any other stipulations the parents wish to include
What are some different types of custody arrangements in Utah?
When deciding how to allocate parental functions, you can choose to have a joint or sole parenting agreement. In a joint parenting plan each parent shares in the duties and responsibilities of raising their child. In a sole agreement, one parent has primary care of the child and the other parent has visitation with the child.
In Utah, what are “joint legal custody” and “joint physical custody”?
In Utah, some kind of joint arrangement is considered in every case. Since joint custody is always considered, here is some more information about how Utah views joint custody (this is found in Chapters 30-3-10 through 30-3-10.3).
Joint Legal Custody
• Means the sharing of rights, privileges, duties and powers of a parent by both parents
• May include an award of exclusive custody to one parent to make specific decisions
• Does not affect the physical custody of the child
• Is not based on awarding equal or nearly equal periods of physical custody
• Does not prohibit the court from specifying one parent as the primary caretaker and one home as the primary residence of the child
Joint Physical Custody
• Means that the child stays with each parent overnight for more than 30% of the year, and both parents contribute to the expenses of the child (in addition to paying child support)
• Can mean equal or nearly equal periods of physical custody by each parent
• May require that a primary physical residence be designated for the child
• Does not prohibit the court from designating one parent as the primary caretaker and one home as the primary residence of the child
What happens after my Utah parenting plan is submitted to the court?
After you submit the parenting plan to the court, it will be reviewed to ensure it meets the needs and serves the best interests of the child. If the court approves your parenting plan, it shall become part of the court order. If your parenting plan is rejected by the court because the court finds it does not serve your child’s best interests, the court will either allow you to make modifications to it or the court will develop a parenting plan for your child. Working the other parent to create a comprehensive, compliant, well organized parenting plan that makes the child and the needs of the child the top priority is the best way to make sure your parenting plan is accepted, as is, by the court.
How to File for Child Custody in Utah
Every child custody case begins with a petition that is filed with the Court. For married parents a “Petition for Divorce” will be filed and for unmarried parents a “Petition for Paternity” or a “Petition for Custody, Visitation, and Support” will be filed. The requirements for each Petition are a bit different, but any time the Court is determining custody the judge will make a decision based on the “best interests” of the children.
Filing Your Petition for Custody in the Right Court
There are a number of requirements that have to be met before a Utah Court can make a decision as to a parent’s custody and visitation rights. There are various exceptions and other lesser-known rules that may apply to your individual case and your attorney can help you sort through those if they’re applicable, but for most cases where your children have been living in Utah for the past 6 months the following general rules will apply:
• If you’re married and filing a Petition for Divorce, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where you or your spouse have resided for the last three months.
• If you’re not married and you’re filing a petition to establish paternity over your child, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where the child resides.
Requirements When Filing for Joint Child Custody
Whenever you file for any type of joint custody (joint legal or joint physical custody) you must file a “parenting plan.” Failure to file a parenting plan can potentially be devastating. This is so because many custody battles end up in a temporary orders hearing where the court will implement a temporary parent-time schedule. If you are asking for joint physical custody, and the other parent has the children a majority of the time, and you have not filed a parenting plan, the court cannot technically award you joint physical custody. This would mean the court would award the other parent with primary physical custody, you would have less time with your children, your child support amount would be higher, and your case for permanent joint custody could be weakened. Getting deserved custody and parent-time with your children as fast as possible is paramount for any concerned parent. Because of this, you must be sure that you start your case out on the right foot. Making even basic errors can cause serious delay in getting the court to intervene and give you court orders protecting your custodial rights.
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