Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Dispute between parents? What does the parenting plan say?

When Salt Lake City families have important goals they wish to reach, it helps to have a plan in place to meet those goals. The plan can set a course of action to accomplish the goal, complete with proposed timelines and conditions that will give the goal the best chance of being met.

In the world of family law, a similar concept is used for meeting child custody goals. When parents create or change a shared parenting arrangement, the parties typically file a parenting plan with the court. The parenting plan is a document that outlines the various aspects of how the parents will raise their children. The goal of the parenting plan is to provide more predictability and stability for the children and to help resolve potential disputes that may arise between the parents.

For instance, this blog recently discussed parenting time disputes that can arise during the holidays. Typically, the parenting plan will provide a residential schedule that lays out where the child will stay during holidays, birthdays, vacations and other events. Parents are obligated to follow these provisions in the parenting plan. Accordingly, if a parent does not follow the parenting plan, the court could find that party in contempt.

Aside from parenting time issues, the parenting plan may also include provisions on what methods will be used to reach a decision when the parties disagree, such as consoling or mediation. In addition, the plan might identify whether one or both parents is responsible for making decisions as to the child's education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. This does not mean the plan will direct a parent's day-to-day decisions or emergency decisions, as these issues cannot be included in the plan. However, the plan may address some broader concepts that provide general direction as to the child's upbringing.

Source: Utah Courts, "Parenting plans," accessed on Dec. 27, 2015

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