How Does the Court Determine Custody of a Child?
When parents are separating or getting divorced, they usually argue over two things: money and children. Unfortunately, these arguments can get quite heated, and often are witnessed by the children themselves, to their great detriment.
When they can’t agree on a custody arrangement that is in the children’s best interest, fortunately the Utah court system will. That is the main principle on which a judge will decide on a suitable custody arrangement; the best interests of the child, as it should be. But what does the judge need to look at to determine a beneficial custody arrangement? Some of the factors are identified in the statutes, while some are determined by the court, depending on the facts of the case. As quoted from the Utah.gov website and the Utah statutes, below are some guidelines the court will consider to determine the child’s best interests:
- the parent's' conduct and moral standards
- which parent is more likely to act in the child's best interest
- which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
- the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between a parent and child
Factors the court will consider when determining whether to grant joint legal or physical custody are:
- whether joint legal custody or joint physical custody will benefit the child's physical, psychological, and emotional needs or the child's development
- the parents' ability to give first priority to the child's welfare and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest
- whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent
- whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce
- the distance between the parents' homes
- the child's preference (if the child can form a preference about joint legal or physical custody
- the parents' maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents
- the parents' ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly
- any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping
- any other factors the court finds relevant
The judge will often talk to the child to see who he or she wishes to live with, but regardless of age, the judge does not have to abide by the child’s wishes and can make a different decision in their best interests. So, as you can see, there are no guarantees or absolutes when it comes to custody decisions.
When you face a custody dispute, don’t face it alone. Let the experienced attorneys at T.R. Spencer Law Office help, and call them at 801-566-1884 for an appointment.