Parenting Plan that Vaguely Assigns Decision Making Responsibilities to Third Party Unenforceable.

In a recent ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals, in a custody modification proceeding, the trial court’s modified parenting plan delegated the authority to make all medical, educational, and extracurricular decisions for one of the parents’ two children to her “team of doctors.” The Court held that these provisions of the plan are too vague and indefinite to be enforceable in that the phrase “team of doctors” is not sufficiently definite and specific. Provisions in a judgment should be definite as indefinite provisions are unenforceable. The judgment must be sufficiently certain to be susceptible of enforcement in the manner provided by law without requiring external proof.

Although not specifically held, it was noted that 452.375.5(5)(a) allows a court to grant custody to a third party when it finds that each parent is unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian, or the welfare of the child requires, and it is in the best interests of the child. However, to do this, the court must make that third person a party to the action. However, parents who share joint legal custody of a child or children can agree to designate a third party as a tie-breaker to resolve individual issues upon which they cannot agree, and such an arrangement does not violate section 452.375.1(2). In this case, the “team of doctors” were not made a party to the case, and the modified parenting plan was against the weight of the evidence in that the parents did not intend to delegate to the team of doctors their authority to make educational or extracurricular decisions for their daughter.

The entire opinion can be read here.