2021 Montana Code Annotated
Title 40. Family Law
Chapter 4. Termination of Marriage, Child Custody, Support
Part 2. Support, Custody, Visitation, and Related Provisions
40-4-234. Final parenting plan criteria

Universal Citation: MT Code § 40-4-234 (2021)

40-4-234. Final parenting plan criteria. (1) In every dissolution proceeding, proceeding for declaration of invalidity of marriage, parenting plan proceeding, or legal separation proceeding that involves a child, each parent or both parents jointly shall submit to the court, in good faith, a proposed final plan for parenting the child, which may include the allocation of parenting functions. A final parenting plan must be incorporated into any final decree or amended decree, including cases of dissolution by default. As used in this section, parenting functions means those aspects of the parent-child relationship in which the parent makes decisions and performs functions necessary for the care and growth of the child, which may include:

(a) maintaining a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child;

(b) attending to the daily needs of the child, such as feeding, physical care, development, and grooming, supervision, spiritual growth and development, health care, day care, and engaging in other activities that are appropriate to the developmental level of the child and that are within the social and economic circumstances of the particular family;

(c) attending to adequate education for the child, including remedial or other education essential to the best interest of the child;

(d) ensuring the interactions and interrelationship of the child with the child's parents and siblings and with any other person who significantly affects the child's best interest; and

(e) exercising appropriate judgment regarding the child's welfare, consistent with the child's developmental level and the family's social and economic circumstances.

(2) Based on the best interest of the child, a final parenting plan may include, at a minimum, provisions for:

(a) designation of a parent as custodian of the child, solely for the purposes of all other state and federal statutes that require a designation or determination of custody, but the designation may not affect either parent's rights and responsibilities under the parenting plan;

(b) designation of the legal residence of both parents and the child, except as provided in 40-4-217;

(c) a residential schedule specifying the periods of time during which the child will reside with each parent, including provisions for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions;

(d) finances to provide for the child's needs;

(e) any other factors affecting the physical and emotional health and well-being of the child;

(f) periodic review of the parenting plan when requested by either parent or the child or when circumstances arise that are foreseen by the parents as triggering a need for review, such as attainment by the child of a certain age or if a change in the child's residence is necessitated;

(g) sanctions that will apply if a parent fails to follow the terms of the parenting plan, including contempt of court;

(h) allocation of parental decisionmaking authority regarding the child's:

(i) education;

(ii) spiritual development; and

(iii) health care and physical growth;

(i) the method by which future disputes concerning the child will be resolved between the parents, other than court action; and

(j) the unique circumstances of the child or the family situation that the parents agree will facilitate a meaningful, ongoing relationship between the child and parents.

(3) In approving a final parenting plan for a child of a parent in military service, the court may not disapprove the plan only because of the parent's military service.

(4) The court may in its discretion order the parties to participate in a dispute resolution process to assist in resolving any conflicts between the parties regarding adoption of the parenting plan. The dispute resolution process may include counseling or mediation by a specified person or agency or court action.

(5) Each parent may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent, and either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the child's safety or health. When mutual decisionmaking is designated in the parenting plan but cannot be achieved regarding a particular issue, the parents shall make a good faith effort to resolve the issue through any dispute resolution process provided for in the final parenting plan.

(6) If a parent fails to comply with a provision of the parenting plan, the other parent's obligations under the parenting plan are not affected.

(7) At the request of either parent or appropriate party, the court shall order that the parenting plan be sealed except for access by the parents, guardian, or other person having custody of the child.

History: En. Sec. 20, Ch. 343, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 545, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 356, L. 2009.

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