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David R. Hartwig, Esq.
Family Law & Divorce Attorney & Counselor at Law Veteran Military Discount

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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!

I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child's development

• The parents' ability to give first priority to the child's welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents' homes

• The parents' maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents' ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Issue

If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.


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