The legislature calls the new parent time schedule in Utah the “Optional” schedule. I am anticipating that it will become the norm in most cases. The parent time schedule is less creative than you may think. In fact, it represents a very common schedule that parties agree to at mediation. Essentially, it is an extended weekend and midweeks become overnight visits. Here it is:
(1) The optional parent-time schedule in this section applies to children 5 to 18 years of age. This schedule is 145 overnights, which may result in joint physical custody.
(2) The parents and the court may consider the following increased parent-time schedule as a minimum when the parties agree or the noncustodial parent can demonstrate the following: (a) the noncustodial parent has been actively involved in the child’s life; (b) the parties are able to communicate effectively regarding the child, or the noncustodial parent has a plan to accomplish effective communications regarding the child; (c) the noncustodial parent has the ability to facilitate the increased parent-time; (d) the increased parent-time would be in the best interest of the child; and (e) any other factor the court considers relevant.
(3) In determining whether a noncustodial parent has been actively involved in the child’s life, the court shall consider: (a) demonstrated responsibility in caring for the child; (b) involvement in day care; (c) presence or volunteer efforts in the child’s school and at extra curricular activities; (d) assistance with the child’s homework; (e) involvement in preparation of meals, bath time, and bed time for the child; (f) bonding with the child; and (g) any other factor the court considers relevant.
(4) In determining whether a noncustodial parent has the ability to facilitate the increased parent-time, the court shall consider: a) the geographic distance between the residences of the parents and the distance between the parents’ residences and the child’s school; (b) the noncustodial parent’s ability to assist with after school care; (c) the health of the child and the noncustodial parent, consistent with Subsection 30-3-10(4); (d) flexibility of employment or other schedule of the parents; (e) ability to provide appropriate play time with the child; (f) history and ability of parents to implement a flexible schedule for the child; (g) physical facilities of the noncustodial parent’s residence; and (h) any other factor the court considers relevant.
(5) Any elections required to be made in accordance with this section by either parent concerning parent-time shall be made a part of the decree and made a part of the parent-time order. Elections may only be changed by mutual agreement, court order, or by the noncustodial 104 parent in the event of a change in the child’s schedule.
(6) If the parties agree or the court enters an order for the optional parent-time schedule as set forth in this section, which may result in joint physical custody, a parenting plan in compliance with Sections 30-1-10.7 through 30-3-10.10 shall be filed with any order incorporating the following optional parent-time schedule. (a) One weekday, to be specified by the noncustodial parent or the court, or on Wednesday, if not specified, from 5:30 p.m. until the following day when delivering the child to school, or until 8 a.m., if there is no school the following day. Once the election of the weekday is made, it may only be changed in accordance with Subsection (5). At the election of the noncustodial parent: (i) weekday parent-time may commence at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed; and (ii) if school is not in session, and the parent is available to be with the child, weekday parent-time may commence at approximately 8 a.m., accommodating the custodial parent’s work schedule. (b) Alternating weekends beginning on the first weekend after the entry of the decree from 6 p.m. on Friday until Monday when delivering the child to school, or until 8 a.m. if there is no school on Monday. At the election of the noncustodial parent, parent-time may commence: (i) from the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed on Friday; or (ii) if school is not in session, and if the noncustodial parent is available to be with the child, at approximately 8 a.m. Friday, accommodating the custodial parent’s work schedule.
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