Checklist for Writing a Parenting Plan

If you have children and are going through a divorce, then writing a Parenting Plan for how you and your spouse will handle childcare issues is one of the most important things you can do right now. A written-out, agreed-upon parenting plan will improve communication and avoid a lot of conflicts down the road, and it will help give your children greater consistency and stability.

How to Write a Parenting Plan

When writing a parenting plan, you should include the following elements:

Custody

You need to work out a parenting agreement that determines if one parent will be the children’s primary caregiver, or if both parents will share the duties. You also need to work out if one or both parents will seek legal custody.

Regular Child Visitation Schedule

If you have chosen a shared child custody agreement, then you need to work out a schedule for visitations. Which days, weeks, or months will each parent have custody of the children? It is important to agree on co-parenting schedules, but you should write the agreement with a little wiggle room for you both, to accommodate the unexpected.

Special Occasion Visitation Schedule

You will also have to decide on who the children will share holidays and other special occasions with. These include things like birthdays, graduations. You might decide to change holidays yearly or have the children always spend the same holidays with the same parent.

Education

You need to decide whether your children will be attending daycare, if appropriate, and also if they will be going to public or private schools.

Childcare

Being single parents means that childcare will be more difficult in the future. Before problems arise, you should agree on child care providers who both parents trust.

Health Insurance

You should also make provisions for your children’s healthcare coverage. Whose plan will cover the children? You should also work out an agreement for sharing premiums and copays.

College Savings

Details of who is responsible for what part of your children’s college savings is also important. You should also work out how much money each parent is supposed to contribute to the savings plan, and how often.

Medical Decisions

Matters like using prescription medications, mental health care, and even cosmetic procedures should be included in the parenting plan. This may also include issues like diet and exercise.

Communication

A Parenting Plan may need to include information on communicate between parents and children. If the visitation rights of one parent are restricted, or if supervision during visits is required, then communication may have to be limited.

Extended Family Relationships

You may also want to include how relationships with the extended family on each side will be carried out. When will visits to grandparents, aunts, uncles and so forth be expected?

FAQ- How to Put Together a Parenting Plan Checklist

A Parenting Plan is a written plan for managing parenting roles through the years. The plan clearly details parents’ responsibilities and schedules for their time to be spent with their children and spells out how contingencies will be managed. The Parenting Plan enables parents to know in advance what they will be expected to do daily, monthly, yearly, throughout the remaining years of raising their child. It provides directives for how special events and circumstances will be handled by each parent, how key decisions will be made, and how disagreements will be resolved, to ensure maximum stability and minimum anxiety for the child. Search “Parenting Plan examples” on the internet, or use these tips for writing a parenting plan, provided by the Administrative Offices of the Utah Courts.
In joint custody cases, a Parenting Plan is required, under Utah Code Title 30 Chapter 3 Section 10.7 - 10.10. In other cases of some degree of shared custody, a formal plan for managing parent-time cooperatively between custodial and noncustodial parents is typically issued by the family court judge. In military divorce cases, a Military Parenting Plan must be filed. If a party to a custody case asks the court to order shared parenting or to alter an existing custody order, a Parenting Plan must be submitted.
Your Parenting Plancan include any points you find relevant, in addition to the following required inclusions:
  • A schedule showing where the child will sleep on vacations, birthdays, holidays, other special events, and remaining days of the year must be detailed in the plan.
  • It must state which parent will have the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, religious training, and other fundamental aspects of raising the child. Other decisions, such as those about clothing purchases, extra-curricular activities, social activities, and others can also be included.
  • The plan must specify methods the parents will employ for resolving disagreements (30-3 Section 10.9). For example, the parties may opt to use counseling, or mediation, or other options. If a parent is determined to be using a resource for dispute resolution in bad faith, he or she can face a judgment by the court requiring him/her to pay penalties as well as attorneys’ fees to the other party.
  • It must state the amount of notice that a parent agrees to provide if he or she decides to relocate and layout a modified Parenting Plan to include changes in scheduled parent-time. The plan needs to specify which parent will pay for the child to travel between the parents’ residences after the relocation.
There are some stipulations that the Parenting Plan cannot include. The law does not allow the Parenting Plan to change these fundamental parenting principles:
  1. The parent with whom the child is living will make the daily decisions pertaining to the child.
  2. Either parent can make decisions in emergencies regarding the child's safety or health.
Additional Parenting Plan provisions may be required by the court if one or both parents are currently in the military or enter the military during the years while the Parenting Plan is legally in force. See Code Section 30-3 (10.8 - 10.9), for specifications. See Parenting Plan forms for military and non-military plans.
A military parent who receives notice of deployment must provide written notice of deployment to the other parent within 7 days, or as quickly as can be reasonably delivered. Include information about the parent’s destination and the duration and conditions of his or her deployment in the notification. When one or both parents are either reserve or active members of the military services, both must file a Military Parenting Plan with the family court. The plan must address management of issues that can be expected to arise when one or both parents are deployed, including these, among other parenting matters:
  • Who will have authority as the child’s caretaker during a parent's military deployment
  • Who will have the authority to make decisions regarding the child
  • What methods will be used for resolving disagreements
  • How contact with deployed parents will be managed
  • Visitation arrangements for people other than the child’s parents
The Parenting Plan for military members cannot be used to modify child support. To request a change in the amount of child support, a Motion for Temporary Order Due to Deployment must be filed with the court. Unless otherwise specified in the Military Parenting Plan, the plan modifications that are in effect during deployment will automatically end 30 days after the parent provides notice of his/her return from the deployment.
A person who petitions the court in a child custody case must file a Parenting Plan along with the petition. Then, the respondent must also file a Parenting Plan, along with his or her answer to the petition. Failure to file a Parenting Plan with the court can lead the judge to accept the other party’s plan, which may not be as easily manageable for you as an alternative plan you may have preferred. Parents may work together to prepare and submit an agreed Parenting Plan to the court. In fact, Utah Code 30-3 Section 10.7-10.10 emphasizes that a mutually agreed Parenting Plan is better than one created by the court. In some cases, the judge may require the parents to work together to prepare and file a Parenting Plan that is agreeable to both parties.
Inclusions in a Parenting Plan are legal requirements. Both parents are compelled by law to follow all provisions of a Parenting Plan that has been issued by a judge as part of a divorce decree or other order of the court. Failure to follow the specifications of the court-ordered Parenting Plan can cause you to be found in contempt of court, and if the other parent does not adhere to the plan, you may file an Order to Show Cause. However, you must continue following all instructions for your own role in the Parenting Plan, even if the other parent has not been meeting the legal requirements in the plan. Discuss the actions that are most advisable for you to take with an experienced Utah custody attorney.

See How Our Utah Family Law Attorneys Can Help!

Writing a Parenting Plan you can both agree on is one of the most important steps in the divorce process. You can find parenting plan examples, a parenting plan worksheet, and even a parenting plan template online if you need more help in drafting one. Better yet, you can call on Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law, a leading family law, and divorce firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have over 190 years of combined legal experience helping families in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. Get a free consultation, and speak to one of our child custody attorneys, look at a sample custody agreement, or just ask us for the advice and guidance you need to help you through this difficult time. Give us a call at 801-758-8204 to see how we can help!

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