Child custody issues are never easy. In some cases, a custody order is modifiable due to changed circumstances. When this need arises, many parents wonder how the child's wishes factor into the request. After all, the main focus is on the well-being of the child. See how much leeway the court will give to the child's wishes.
As in many different jurisdictions, child custody modifications in Utah are fairly complicated. Thus, it is always a good idea to work with a custody lawyer during this process.
Essentially, either parent can file a petition with the court to seek a modification. However, one must take care to submit a request to the appropriate court. In Utah, both the juvenile court and district court have the power to issue custody orders. The acting party must file the modification in the court of its origination.
Furthermore, it is necessary to specify which type of custody is being changed. There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Most parents will share legal custody while one parent has physical custody. However, there are many different possible combinations of the two. To change custody, it is important to clarify which type of custody is at issue.
Going Through ADR
The parties can resolve a custody dispute through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In this process, the case does not go before the court. Instead, the two parties can discuss the matter in a semi-formal environment. Most people also use the help of a custody attorney during this procedure.
If ADR is successful, the parties will sign a stipulation. A custody attorney will file this document with the petition to modify. This will change the existing custody order.
ADR is a popular choice because it is quicker and cheaper than the court process. ADR, or domestic mediation, also tends to be less stressful. This is due to the fact that the parties have a chance to hash out their differences. Hopefully, this results in a mutually beneficial agreement that supports the child's wishes.
What About the Child?
At the heart of custody arrangements is the best interest of the child. The court has a strong interest in continuing a stable environment for the child. As such, most judges are reluctant to make significant changes.
Yet, the judge will consider the child's own statement. However, this is only one of the factors that the court evaluates. Overall, the court tries to look at the entire picture.
In some cases, the court will require a child custody evaluation. In this situation, a child custody evaluator will interview all of the parties. This person may even speak to the child alone to uncover the truth. At the end, the evaluator will produce a Settlement Conference Report for the court. The child may also act as a witness before the court. In this sense, the court will consider the child's own desires.
The Final Answer
If you are wondering whether you can change a custody order because your child agrees to it, the answer is maybe. There are several requirements to meet before the court grants a modification. Among these are a material and substantial change in the circumstances, and the child's best interests. Each of these areas can present complexities. It is best to work with a child custody lawyer to have the best chance at a fair resolution.
For assistance with child custody modifications in Utah, contact a family law attorney at T.R. Spencer Law Office.