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Child Custody & Parent Time

Child Custody Lawyers in utah

When it comes to Utah child custody laws, there are two different types: physical custody and legal custody.

Following you’ll find a breakdown of these two laws that will help you to better understand the complex issues of both physical and legal child custody in Utah and what they mean for you and any child involved in your custody case.


Legal custody refers to which party will make important or legal decisions for the minor child or children. Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means both parents will make decisions for the child or children. In a joint legal custody arrangement, a parenting plan will need to be created by the parties to outline how they will jointly parent and make decisions. If decisions cannot be reached between the parties, the parenting plan will need to have a dispute resolution provision to provide the parties with a process whereby they can work through their differences.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody means one parent will make all important decisions for the child or children. There is a rebuttable presumption under Utah law that in most cases, it is in the best interest of the child for parents to share legal custody. However, sole legal custody may be appropriate if there has been domestic violence in the home or in the presence of the child or children, if special physical or mental needs of a parent or child make joint custody unreasonable, or other factors under the law.

Physical Custody

Physical custody generally refers to with whom the minor child or children will reside. There are many factors that have to be taken into account by the court when it comes to determining which party is best suited to have physical custody of the children.

Some of the factors include:

  • The strength of the child’s bond with either of the parents as well as with his or her siblings.
  • The benefit of maintaining previously instated arrangements for the benefit of the child.
  • The character, status, or capacity of either parent to function as an appropriate caretaker for the child. Factors such as their emotional and financial stability, religious compatibility, history of alcohol or drug abuse, and signs of abuse to the child, another child, or spouse are all taken into account.
  • For other factors, please see Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-10 and Rules of Judicial Administration § 4-903.

Joint & Sole Custody

Joint Legal Custody

Joint physical custody means that the parties share physical time with the children who live in both homes part-time. Joint physical custody will generally require that the parents live in the same town or general area.

Joint physical custody does not mean the parties share the child on a 50/50 time-sharing schedule. Rather, it generally means the child or children stay with each parent overnight for more than 30% of the year, and both parents contribute to the expenses of the child in addition to the payment of child support. Sometimes, parents agree to a joint custody arrangement that designates one parent as the “primary” or residential parent.

In a joint physical custody arrangement, a parenting plan will need to be created by the parties to outline how they will jointly parent.

Sole Legal Custody

If sole physical custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent is awarded “parent-time” (visitation) with the minor child or children.

Utah has a standard schedule of parent-time which is found in Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-35, § 30-3-35.1, and § 30-3-35.5. The standard parent-time schedule may vary depending on various circumstances including the age of the child.