David R. Hartwig, ESQ.
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Parent time and visitation Archives

Joint Custody / Parenting Plan -- Do You Really Know? And Who Has the Final Word?

Joint Custody is all the rage today. And parenting plans abound. But do you really know what they say, and understand how to avoid conflict? The idea sounds simple. Sure both parents will share custody. But what does that mean, and what happens when there is conflict? Joint custody in Utah is controlled by statute, and there are a couple of them. And do you really know what those statute require -- particularly as to how to handle conflict and which parent actually has the final say? Remember, there are only two parents -- so there is no natural way to break a tie. Statute requires that each and every parenting plan has provisions as to how to handle this issue. And, every joint custody order must be accompanied by a parenting plan. So, you will have to deal with this issue. Statute says that, before you can go back to court to enforce any of the orders, you have to comply with the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan. Yet almost all of those (particularly the ones from the court and other sources) say you have to mediate, and then the custodial parent has the final say subject to the other parent's right to go to court to challenge that say. That means that you have to take the time to find a mediator, spend the time and money to attempt mediation, and after a few hours find out that you got nowhere because the other parent simply says "No". Mediation only works by agreement, and if you were able to agree you wouldn't be in this mess anyway. So why even put that mediation stuff in place? I suggest that instead, you list a special master; a person who is court appointed and can actually make a decision on an issue. A special master is allowed by statute, as is arbitration. But, a special master usually works without attorneys, and is much quicker than court or arbitration. I know, as I can usually make a decision within 24 hours of having the issue presented to me by both parties. I suggest that if you are working on a parenting plan, you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. If you already have a parenting plan in place, you can amend it to you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. In that way, the next time there is a problem, be it big or small, you can go right to the special master and resolve the issue in just a couple of hours of work! And, you'll actually have a decision!

Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right?

Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right? I participate in a number of the online legal question and answer forums I often see that claim. But, it is always preceded by allegations that the other parent is not allowing visits, won't let the parent have time with the child, breaks his or her agreements to allow a visit, or demands that all schedules and agreement must be his or her way -- all without going to court. Let me be blunt. The only way parents going to court for assistance in establishing custody and parent-time orders impacts a child is if one, or both, of the parents put that child in the middle and involve the child in the case. If both parents are doing what is best for the child, then the child will not even know that there is a court case, because that case is between the adults. So, going to court to obtain orders concerning custody and parent-time should not directly impact the children. Any impact the child would be passive by way of having parents who love the child and allow the child to openly love each parent -- that can only be a positive impact. Plus, going to court will provide a set, consistent, and predictable schedule for parent-time. A schedule that the parents and the child can count on, and look forward to with happiness and anticipation. So, if the other parent is already causing problems by denying access, limiting parent-time, or playing games with dates and time, that parent is already putting the child in the middle and causing the child harm by way of depriving the child time with the other parent. In those situations, the one parent needs to be an adult and take the situation to court to obtain appropriate orders, including orders to keep the child out of the case. And, I bet that it will be the offending parent who then cries that going to court will "negatively impact the child"!

Divorce Conflict? How to pick a Special Master?

If you are reading this, then you know that a Special Master can be used in situations where there is high-conflict in a divorce or custody case; or after the case, if the conflict continues or worsens. But, how do you find a Special Master.

Divorce Conflict? Tired of dealing with all the problems your ex creates? Try a Special Master

During, and after, a divorce there is often conflict - a great deal of conflict. The conflict often involve the rights of parents in relation to the children: custody disputes, parent-time (visitation) conflicts; and, parenting styles or roles. The children are affected and pulled by parents, and the parents are frustrated by the costs, and weeks of delays, in having to go back to court to determine their rights, or enforce the terms of a divorce, custody, or paternity order.

Divorce - How do you coparent with an uncooperative coparent?

Joint legal custody, with some form of joint parenting, is approaching the norm. There are two sides to the issue, which are addressed elsewhere. But, I continue to see recent posts and articles about the issue of how do I co-parent with an uncooperative (or narcissistic) parent.

Having parent-time disputes, can we use arbitration or mediation?

I hear this fairly often in parent time and visitation matters where things are not working out well. The usual complaint goes along the lines of: "My husband and his ex-wife have been constantly in litigation about various child custody and child support issues over the past few years. It has taken an enormous toll on us."

Halloween and parent-time - who gets the child, and how long?

The fall is upon us, yet again. Halloween is approaching and separated, divorce, or unmarried parents want to know who will have their children for the holiday, and for how long. Halloween is not necessarily a "legal" holiday, so there may well be questions about how that day is handled. What you need to look at is your decree of divorce, or custody orders, to see what it says. In Utah, there are statutes that address visitation, or parent-time; and, those statutes do state what holidays are considered and how they are handled. And, Utah does recognize Halloween as a holiday for purposes of parent-time. The pertinent Utah statutes are 30-3-35, 30-3-35.1, and 30-3-35.5. But, be aware. Your decree or custody order may take precedence over statute; it could give additional holiday time, or take it away. So, look to your divorce decree, paternity orders, or custody orders to see what it says first. If you have any doubts, or questions, get together with an experienced family law attorney to review your papers, and help you learn now exactly what your rights are, rather than waiting until Halloween.

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