David R. Hartwig, ESQ.
Attorney & Counselor At Law
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Special Master 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!

Picking a Special Master

Just last week the Utah State Bar held its 2017 Annual Family Law Seminar, which included a presentation on special masters, including the recommended training. The recommendations included membership with AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts); training in Parenting Coordination and Advanced Issues in Child Custody through AFCC or similar agency; continued affiliation with AFCC or similar group, and continued education through that group; and, experience in custody cases. That is what you should be looking for. If you go to my website, you will see that I have the affiliation, the training, and the continuing relationship as noted above. Plus, I have handled all phases of family law cases, juvenile law cases, and appeals in those areas, as well as other work. Plus, I do offer a sliding scale for fees, depending on your income. So, If you are thinking about a special master for your case, you now have some idea as to what you should be looking for.

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.

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