In divorce situations where the parties have agreed to joint legal custody of the minor children, they will need to file a parenting plan with the Court. At a minimum, the parenting plan should set forth the manner in which the parents will communicate with each other and make major decisions regarding raising their children. I include in this post a very generic sample parenting plan, as an example. However, it is just that – generic. It is not intended for use in any particular situation, but simply shows what types of things may be included in a typical parenting plan. Any parenting plan should be tailored to fit the parties’ unique individual needs and circumstances.
Sample Parenting Plan
Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-10.1 et seq., the following parenting plan shall be followed by the parties:
A. The parents will discuss with each other and if possible, attempt to mutually agree upon the significant decisions regarding their children, including, but not limited to, the children’s education, health care, and religious upbringing. Each parent may make emergency decisions regarding the health or safety of their children, when the children are in that parent’s care.
B. Any parental duties or rights not specifically addressed in this plan shall be discussed by the parents and they shall make efforts to agree on said issues.
C. In making major decisions regarding the children, the parties should in good faith consult with each other and be respectful towards each other’s points of view. Where possible, the parties should attempt to reach consensus regarding major decisions concerning the upbringing of their children. In the event the parties have a disagreement over a major decision, they should first seek the input of a professional in the field. For example, if there are major schooling or medical issues the parties cannot agree upon, they should first seek the input of an educator or physician. If the parties still cannot agree, the custodial parent shall make the final decision.
If the non-custodial parent is not satisfied with the decision, he or she shall have the right to seek court review based upon a “best interests of the children” standard. However, before court review may be sought, the parties shall attempt at least one session of mediation.
D. The minor children should spend holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations and other special occasions, as the parties may agree upon. If the parties cannot agree, holiday parent-time shall be as follows: Pursuant to U.C.A. § 30-3-35. For purposes of designating holidays, the Petitioner shall be the custodial parent, and the Respondent the non-custodial parent.
E. Special consideration shall be given by each parent to make the minor child available to attend family functions including funerals, weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant events in the lives of the minor children or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict with the parent-time schedule.
F. Parental care shall be presumed to be preferable to surrogate care. Both parties shall have the “right of first refusal” to provide work-related care for the children for periods of time greater than two hours when the other parent is working.
G. The custodial parent shall notify the noncustodial parent within 72 hours of receiving notice of all significant school, social, sports, and community functions in which the minor children are participating or being honored, and the noncustodial parent shall be entitled to attend and participate fully.
H. Both parents shall have access directly to all school reports including preschool and daycare reports and medical records and shall be notified immediately by the custodial parent in the event of a medical emergency.
I. Each parent shall provide the other with their current address and telephone number within 24 hours of any change.
J. Each parent shall permit and encourage reasonable telephone contact during reasonable hours and uncensored mail privileges with the minor children.
K. Each parent shall affirmatively support each other as parents and hold the other in high esteem as a parent in their respective conversations with the children throughout their lives and to give compliments to each other, to give the children permission to love each of them and to share appreciation of the other for the favors given.
L. The parents shall remain civil in all of the dealings with respect to the children.
M. The parents shall refrain from making any negative, derogatory or inflammatory remarks about the other parent directly to or in the presence of the minor children, which shall include not yelling and not accusing the other parent of any wrongdoing while the children are present. Both parents shall refrain from criticizing the other parent in the presence of the children or engage in “bad mouthing” loved ones of the children. Both parents shall refer to each other as “mom” and “dad” to the children and should further acknowledge to the children the existence of their extended families (i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). The parents shall be respectfully toward one another at all times.
N. The parents shall not use the children as messenger(s) to take information back and forth between parents. Rather the parents shall either set up e-mail accounts or communicate in writing or by telephone to discuss the minor children and any issues involving them.
O. Both parents shall be respectful when exchanging the children at their parent-time. In addition, neither shall discuss legal or financial issues in the presence of the children.
P. Both parents shall support each other as parents and make their best efforts to establish consistent rules, curfews and discipline philosophies that will foster a feeling of continuity and a sense of security for the children.
Q. If a parent fails to comply with a provision of this parenting plan, the other parent’s obligations under the parenting plan are not affected.
R. Each parent shall permit and encourage, during reasonable hours, reasonable and uncensored communications with the children, in the form of mail privileges and virtual parent-time if the equipment is reasonably available, provided that if the parties cannot agree on whether the equipment is reasonably available, the court shall decide whether the equipment for virtual parent-time is reasonably available, taking into consideration:
(a) the best interests of the child;
(b) each parent’s ability to handle any additional expenses for virtual parent-time; and (c) any other factors the court considers material.
S. Each parent shall provide all surrogate care providers with the name, current address, and telephone number of the other parent and shall provide the noncustodial parent with the name, current address, and telephone number of all surrogate care providers unless the court for good cause orders otherwise.
T. Each parent shall be entitled to an equal division of major religious holidays celebrated by the parents, and the parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not celebrate shall have the right to be together with the children on the religious holiday.
U. Both parents shall work together to enforce consistent disciplinary rules, i.e., for doing chores in a timely manner and for completing homework on time.
V. This parenting plan is filed by the parties in good faith and the plan is in the best interests of the parties’ minor children.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.