What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan outlines how the parents will raise their children. It encourages you to think in advance about how you will make decisions and resolve disagreements. The result will be more predictability and stability for your children and less stress and anxiety. A parenting plan is required for shared parenting (custody) arrangements and is permitted in other parenting arrangements. If one or both parents are servicemembers, they must also file a Military Parenting Plan.
When is a parenting plan required?
The parties must file a parenting plan whenever a party asks the court to create or change a shared parenting arrangement. Any arrangement other than full legal and physical custody held by one parent is a shared parenting arrangement. Be aware that a joint physical custody arrangement may result in denial of cash assistance under the Employment Support Act, Title 35A, Chapter 3, of the Utah Code. For more information about cash assistance eligibility, contact your local office of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. If one or both parents are servicemembers, they must also file a Military Parenting Plan.
What is in a parenting plan?
A parenting plan may include any topic that you want and must include the following.
- The methods you will use to reach a decision when you disagree, such as counseling, mediation or arbitration. A parent who uses a dispute resolution method in bad faith may be required to pay penalties and attorney fees to the other parent.
- A residential schedule that shows where the child will sleep on certain days including holidays, birthdays, vacations and other special events.
- A statement whether one parent, the other, or both is responsible for making decisions about education, healthcare and religious upbringing. Other areas, such as after-school activities or clothing purchases, may be included. There are some limits to what the parenting plan can determine. The law prohibits the parenting plan from changing two principles: (1) each parent will make day-to-day decisions while the child is living with that parent; and (2), either parent may make emergency decisions for the child's health or safety.
- A plan in case one parent wants to relocate. The plan must state the amount of notice that the relocating parent will give and the changes in parent-time, such as who will pay for the child's travel and how the parent-time schedule might change.
- When one or both parents are or become servicemembers, additional provisions may be required. See Utah Code Section 30-3-10.8 and 10.9.
Military Parenting Plan
If one or both parents are servicemembers, they must also file a Military Parenting Plan. Service members include active and reserve members of the United States armed forces and the national guard. The Military Parenting Plan covers issues that may come up if one or both parents are deployed, and includes plans for:
- Who will have caretaking authority of the children during a parent's deployment
- Who will have decision-making authority during a parent's deployment
- Visitation for non-parents
- How disputes will be resolved
- Contact with deployed parents
When a parent received notice of deployment, they must give written notice to the other parent about their deployment within 7 days, or as soon as reasonably possible. If the non-deploying parent has a protective order against the deploying parent, the deploying parent will give written notice of deployment to the court. The written notice of deployment should include information about the destination, duration, and conditions of their deployment.
The military parenting plan does not change the amount of child support. If someone wants to ask to change the child support amount, they must file a Motion for Temporary Order Due to Deployment.
The arrangements in the military parenting plan end 30 days after the deployed parent gives notice of return from deployment, unless another time is specified in the military parenting plan.
When do I file my parenting plan?
The petitioner must file a parenting plan with the petition. The respondent must file a parenting plan with the answer. It is very important to file a plan. If you fail to file a parenting plan, the court may accept the other parent's plan by default. Parents may jointly prepare and file a parenting plan. Sometimes the court may order the parents to prepare and file a parenting plan.
What happens if I or the other party does not follow the parenting plan?
After the court approves a parenting plan, if you don't follow it, the court may find you in contempt. If the other party does not follow the plan, you may file Motion to Enforce Order, but you must follow the plan even if the other party does not.
You may use the parenting plan form the court provides, create your own, or search the internet for sample parenting plans.
- Use the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to create a parenting plan as part of the program for divorce or parentage.
or you can use these forms
(If one or both parents are servicemembers)
- Pointers for Parents and Parenting Plans - PDF | Word