CHILD CUSTODY / PARENTING PLANS

Chapter 8 Child Custody and Parenting Plans

Pertinent Utah Code. (See: http://le.utah.gov/xcode/code.html)

§30-3-10
§§30-3-10.1,10.2, 10.3, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9
§30-3-32
§30-3-33

Utah courts have the authority to make child custody orders where the parties are separated or where the marriage is dissolved. The court uses what is known as the ‘best interests of the child’ to determine the custody arrangement, among other factors. Some the additional factors include the past conduct of each of the parties, which parent will most likely act in the best interest of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent, the bond between the child and each parent and any other consideration the court finds appropriate.

The statutes define two types of custody – Legal custody and Physical custody.

The court may award the sole, joint or split custody of the children.

It is a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child. Utah defines joint legal custody as the sharing of the rights, privileges, duties, and powers of a parent by both parents.

It is not a rebuttable presumption that Joint physical custody is in the best interest of the child. Joint physical custody means 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.

Parenting Plan

A parenting plan means a plan for parenting a child, including division of parenting functions, which is incorporated into any final decree. Parenting functions means those aspects of the parent-child relationship in which the parent makes decisions and performs functions necessary for the care and growth of the child and may include:

-Maintaining a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child;
-Attending to the daily  needs of the child;
-Attending to the education of the child;
-Assisting the child in developing and maintaining appropriate interpersonal relationships;
-Exercising appropriate judgment regarding the child’s welfare; and
-Providing for the financial support of the child.

The objectives of a parenting plan are to provide for the child’s physical care, maintain the child’s emotional stability, provide for the changing needs of the child, set forth the authority and responsibility of each parent, minimize the child’s exposure to conflict, encourage the parents to reach agreements to meet the child’s needs, and to protect the best interests of the child.  Additionally, a parenting plan is required to provide provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents, residential provisions for the child, notice and parent-time responsibilities, relocation provisions, and other provisions regarding the welfare of the child. The statutes also suggest ‘Advisory Guidelines’ found in UCA 30-3-30 that suggest terms to facilitate and govern parent time arrangements between the parents.

Divorce Note: If the petition requests joint legal custody, or joint legal custody and joint physical custody, a parenting plan must also be filed with the court. The parenting plan may be directly incorporated into the petition and must be incorporated into the final order.