What Is a Parenting Plan and How Can I Make Mine Rock?! (Part 3 of 4)

This blog post covers provisions that are not required by Utah law to be in a parenting plan but that you either are allowed to include in the parenting plan or that you really should consider including in you parenting plan.

If you read part 2 of this 4-part series, you may have remember that my opinions on parenting plans is that they are, by and large, silly and a waste of time.[1]  But since they are required by Utah law as part of every divorce in which joint legal and/or joint physical custody is awarded, you need to make the best of your own parenting plan.

Does that mean your parenting plan has to be complex and lengthy?  Actually, I submit it means just the opposite.

Any good lawyer will tell you that when it comes to putting together a contract concision and simplicity are key.  A contract that is too long is almost certainly never going to be fully read or understood, and if anyone is masochist enough to read the whole thing, he or she is almost assured of being disappointed and/or confused by some part or parts of it.

So start with the principal of ensuring your parenting plan is no more or less than required by law.

Every Utah parenting plan must contain the following minimum provisions:

  • Ÿprovisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents;
  • Ÿa process for resolving disputes, unless precluded or limited by statute;
  • Ÿallocation of decision-making authority;
  • Ÿresidential provisions for the child;
  • Ÿprovisions addressing notice and parent-time responsibilities in the event of the relocation of either party;
  • Ÿallocate decision-making authority to one or both parties regarding the children’s education, health care, and religious upbringing; and
  • a residential schedule which designates in which parent’s home each minor child shall reside on given days of the year, including provisions for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions.

A parenting plan may contain other provisions, but only the foregoing four provisions are required

(See Utah Code § 30-3-10.9).

Once you ensure that your parenting plan takes all the required boxes of Utah Code § 30-3-10.9, how you phrase your parenting plan is both a matter of personal taste and an artistic touch.  Some parents make the mistake of creating a parenting plan that plays to their vanity and insecurities by being so over the top cloying and sweet it would send you into insulin shock (i.e., “each parent will give the children permission to love the other parent”).  Avoid this route.  Other parents have a micromanager’s mindset, including provisions for how many calories the children can consume on a daily basis and what brand of toothpaste they will use.  Don’t do it.  Still other kinds of parents use the parenting plan as a gripe sheet through which they condemn, libel, and slander the other parent form of “rules” that only highlight the other parent’s failings (i.e., “neither parent may expose the children to pornography” or “both parents will share equally the costs of the children’s psychotherapy they engage in due to their mother’s suicide attempt”).  In any of these situations, when your reach exceeds your grasp, your parenting plan is bound to fail.  Heck, even a well-constructed parenting plan is only as good as the people who follow it.

So what is a good example of a minimally invasive and serviceable parenting plan?  I humbly submit the following, which I use in most of the cases I handle—mind you, I tailor each parenting plan to the specific needs of each family, but I start with these core provisions (and truth be told, I’m not ashamed to tell you that many of the parenting plans I propose are identical across many different kinds of divorce and child custody cases; if it works, who cares about how unique it is?) Click here for example.

This is one of my best examples of a parenting plan that covers the core requirements of the Utah Code for parenting plans, based upon a joint legal and physical custody award.  Remember that your parenting plan can and should be based upon what you and your family need and want.

To see examples of parenting plan provisions to avoid, read part 4 of this four-part blog post series.

If you need assistance with your parenting plan, schedule an appointment today with one of our attorneys.



[1] And is it any wonder?  Any plan that involves two or more people requires buy-in from both people.  Given that a divorcing couple couldn’t even agree to stay married, what possessed the legislature to believe that they would want to agree on and plan for anything?  “Ah,” you might say, “although they are no longer spouses, they nevertheless remain parents, and that common love they share for their children will surely unite them in a shared commitment to their children’s well-being.  Nope.  Yes, sometimes divorcing spouses can set aside their personal differences for the sake of the kids, but not that often, frankly.  The legislature should have known this and taken it into account when contemplating the passage of parenting plan laws, but was blinded by its own self-important idealism, and passed the parenting plan laws were leaving the power of aspiration would overcome free will.


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