Child Custody in Utah

Child Custody in Utah

TR Spencer & Associates takes child custody matters seriously. We’re aggressive at trial and empathetic in consultations as we listen carefully to your child custody concerns. No child custody case is like any other. If you need a child custody lawyer, don’t hesitate. You need an experienced legal advocate at your side.

Utah Custody Options

As a parent, you may work out custody matters with your former spouse. Alternatively, a judge in Utah family court may be your only option. Either way, a custody order must address both legal and physical custody of your child, including where the child lives (physical custody) and parents’ rights to make important decisions in the best interest of their child. These decisions may include educational, religious, legal, medical, and cultural decisions for the child.

The parent who primarily lives with the child has physical custody. In Utah, parents may share physical custody: this arrangement is known as joint physical custody. One parent may be awarded primary custody or sole physical custody. In addition:

  • The parent spending most of the time with a child is called the custodial parent,” while the other parent is known as the noncustodial parent.
  • Parents may share legal custody of the child or one parent may be given singular decision-making authority over the child.
  • In situations in which parents share legal custody, his or her custodial parent has the final word on decisions if parents can’t agree.

Establishing a Visitation Schedule

Under Utah Code 30-3-10, a child custody order must include the visitation schedule of parents and their child on weekly, monthly, summer, and holiday visits. Under most circumstances, both father and mother are entitled to share regular time with the child. Neither parent may prevent the other from visits:

  • The noncustodial parent (without joint custody) is allowed to schedule minimum visitation. In Utah, this typically means one weeknight each week and overnight visits on alternate weekends.
  • In circumstances in which the safety and/or well-being of the child is at stake, e.g., if the parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, the judge in Utah family court may grant supervised visits that occur at a certain location or agency.
  • The Child’s Best Interests in Utah

    The court steps in to make choices in the child’s best interests if parents don’t agree. A judge reviews the parents’ proposed custody arrangement to finalize the order (even if they agree with it) to make sure it’s in the child’s best interests.

    The family court considers the following elements of the child custody order:

    • The child’s emotional/physical requirements
    • The child’s relationship with each of the parents
    • Each of the parent’s mental and physical health
    • The child’s relationships with the community, extended family, and siblings
    • A parent’s history of substance abuse or domestic violence
    • A parent’s agreement to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
    • The physical distance between parents’ homes
    • The preference of the child (if he or she is of sufficient maturity/age)
    • Any other factors the court considers relevant to the custody case

    The judge may consider the child’s custody preference if he or she is over the age of 14. The judge may want to know why the child prefers one parent to another, e.g. is one parent’s residence closer to school or friends. The court may accept this as a reasonable answer. Conversely, if the child prefers a parent because he or she gives lavish presents, the judge may not consider this as a reasonable answer. Either way, the judge always has the right to overrule the child’s wishes.

    Child Custody Order Modification

    Utah family court understands that the best interests of the child may change as they grow older. In Utah, either parent may file a request to modify an existing child custody order if a material change in circumstances affects either the child or their parents, or when three years or more have passed since the existing custody order was entered. The parent requesting the change in custody must demonstrate that the change (modification) is in the child’s best interests.

    The judge considers the same factors noted above. The judge then holds a court hearing to weigh the evidence. It is always the child’s needs, not the parent’s wish, which determines the judge’s decision. For example, if the parent needs to relocate to take a new job, it’s not as sufficient as a parent or child’s medical crisis.

    Utah Child Custody Lawyer

    Don’t try to negotiate with a former spouse outside of family court. Don’t go to trial before the judge without an experienced child custody attorney at your side. Never try to modify an existing child custody order by yourself. TR Spencer & Associates has the experience you need to ensure that your child’s best interests are met. Call us at 801-566-1884 today.

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