Utah Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make my Utah parenting plan / child custody agreement?

You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can I use the law to help me as I make my Utah custody agreement?

Being familiar with the state legislation as it applies to your case will give you an advantage when developing your parenting plan and prepare you for what to expect from the court, improving your chances for a successful outcome.

The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation in the State of Utah can be found in the Utah Code, Title 30, Husband and Wife, Chapter 3, Divorce.

The law defines the different types of custody and other terms used by the court, outlines the methods the court uses to determine custody, and details many of the procedures you will need to comply with in your case.

What kind of custody does the State of Utah prefer to award?

The State of Utah does not hold a preference as to the type of custody parents have, whether it is joint legal custody, joint physical custody or sole custody.

Instead, the court considers a preponderance of the evidence and uses the widest discretion, with the child's best interests as a main concern, when making a ruling on a custodial matter such as a parenting plan (30-3-10.2.5).

The State of Utah considers the best interests of the child to be paramount when ruling on child custody cases.

In Utah, how does the court decide what the child's "best interests" are?

The court will consider all relevant factors (30-3-10) when determining the child's best interests, including:

  • The moral standards and past conduct of each of the parents.
  • Which parent is more suited to act in the child's best interests.
  • Which parent is more likely to allow and encourage frequent contact between the child and the other parent.
  • The nature of the relationships between the child and each parent.
  • The quality and depth of the emotional bonds between the child and each parent.
  • The child's development and emotional needs, and which parent is able to meet those needs better.
  • The ability of the parents to put their child's needs and welfare above everything else.
  • The ability of the parents to work together to agree on issues that affect the child's best interests.
  • The history of the child's care and whether or not both parents participated in raising the child previously, and which parent acted as the child's primary caregiver.
  • The geographical proximity of the parents' homes to each other and to the child's school.
  • The preference of the child if the child is of an appropriate age and maturity level to voice an intelligent opinion. Special consideration will be given to the requests of children sixteen or older. The requests of children are considered but are not the sole determinant.
  • The composure of the parents and their willingness to protect the child from parental conflict and drama.
  • Whether or not the parents are able to cooperate with each other and make joint decisions regarding the child's upbringing.
  • Any history of (or the potential for) domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, kidnapping, or any other actions that have had or would have a negative or harmful effect on the child.
  • Any other factors the court finds to be relevant.

In Utah, what is the purpose of a parenting plan / custody agreement?

Utah law requires parents seeking shared custody to submit a parenting plan to the court, and allows parents in other types of cases to submit one, as well.

The objective of a parenting plan in the State of Utah (30-3-10.9.1) is to:

  • Provide for the physical care of the child
  • Maintain the child's emotional well-being
  • Be developed in a manner that allows the plan to adjust as the child grows
  • Delegate parental authority, rights, and responsibilities
  • Minimize the child's exposure to parental conflict
  • Serve the best interests of the child

Parents may work together and submit a parenting plan they mutually agree on, or, if that is not possible, parents may submit proposed parenting plans, individually, which the court may or may not accept.

What should I include in my Utah parenting plan / custody agreement?

In Utah, a parenting plan should contain the following components (30-3-10.9):

  • A method for dispute resolution
  • An allocation of parental authority, responsibilities, and decision-making powers involving the child's education, health care, and religious upbringing
  • Residential provisions for the child and a child visitation schedule that specifies when the child will spend time with each parent on a regular basis, holidays, and vacation times
  • Stipulations regarding parental relocation
  • A statement regarding the required exchange of information between the parents
  • Provisions to minimize disruption in the child's life and education
  • Provisions for the maintenance and health insurance of the child
  • Any other stipulations the parents wish to include

What are some different types of custody arrangements in Utah?

When deciding how to allocate parental functions, you can choose to have a joint or sole parenting agreement.

In a joint parenting plan each parent shares in the duties and responsibilities of raising their child.

In a sole agreement, one parent has primary care of the child and the other parent has visitation with the child.

In Utah, what are "joint legal custody" and "joint physical custody"?

In Utah, some kind of joint arrangement is considered in every case. Since joint custody is always considered, here is some more information about how Utah views joint custody (this is found in Chapters 30-3-10 through 30-3-10.3).

Joint Legal Custody

  • Means the sharing of rights, privileges, duties and powers of a parent by both parents
  • May include an award of exclusive custody to one parent to make specific decisions
  • Does not affect the physical custody of the child
  • Is not based on awarding equal or nearly equal periods of physical custody
  • Does not prohibit the court from specifying one parent as the primary caretaker and one home as the primary residence of the child

Joint Physical Custody

  • Means that 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)
  • Can mean equal or nearly equal periods of physical custody by each parent
  • May require that a primary physical residence be designated for the child
  • Does not prohibit the court from designating one parent as the primary caretaker and one home as the primary residence of the child

What happens after my Utah parenting plan is submitted to the court?

After you submit the parenting plan to the court, it will be reviewed to ensure it meets the needs and serves the best interests of the child.

If the court approves your parenting plan, it shall become part of the court order.

If your parenting plan is rejected by the court because the court finds it does not serve your child's best interests, the court will either allow you to make modifications to it or the court will develop a parenting plan for your child.

Working the other parent to create a comprehensive, compliant, well organized parenting plan that makes the child and the needs of the child the top priority is the best way to make sure your parenting plan is accepted, as is, by the court.

The top twenty cities in Utah (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Provo, West Jordan, Sandy, Orem, Ogden, St. George, Layton, Taylorsville, South Jordan, Logan, Lehi, Murray, Bountiful, Draper, Riverton, Kearns, Roy, Cottonwood Heights.

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