Parents beginning the divorce process with minor children have additional issues to address. In many areas, courts prioritize the interests of children above the preferences of the divorcing couple.
In Utah, the law requires parents to submit a parenting plan. The only exception is when only one parent will fully receive both legal and physical custody and thus the other parent will be completely out of the picture. Otherwise, no matter how minimal one parent's anticipated contact with the children, you will need a parenting plan.
According to the law, your parenting plan must cover certain mandatory topics. These include a schedule for the child's residence and visitation dates, which parent will have the last word on particular types of decisions and a process for handling the situation if one parent wants to move away. The plan must also contain a provision detailing how the parents will address any disputes over parenting decisions.
What else to include
Additionally, your parenting plan may include any other topics you deem important. These topics will depend on your family's particular circumstances. While parents have a great deal of flexibility in coming up with the plan that is best for them and their children, the law does place several limits. For example, the decision-making provisions cannot supersede the legal rule of leaving day-to-day decisions to the parent with whom the child resides at the moment. Likewise, in an emergency, the parent who is with the child can make the necessary decisions.
When to submit your plan
Generally, you should submit a parenting plan along with your other papers when you file for divorce. The other parent may then submit an alternative plan with his or her response. You may also choose to come up with a joint parenting plan if you are able to agree. You can do this as part of your divorce agreement or separately. You must also file a new plan when you ask the court to modify an existing plan.
Each divorce is highly individual, especially when children are involved. Consulting an experienced family law attorney can help you develop an effective parenting plan that meets legal standards and works for you and your children.