Child Custody & Parent Time
Whether you have a custody battle resulting from an ongoing divorce, or if you’re an unmarried parent fighting for custody of a child, the attorneys at Burton Attorneys at Law have the experience to handle your case. Remember, we only practice family law and custody is one of the issues most often handled by our attorneys. Your child means everything to you so don’t take a chance using an attorney or law firm that doesn’t focus on family law related issues.
Utah child custody laws boil down to two different types: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody generally refers to with whom the minor child(ren) will reside, while legal custody refers to which party will make important or legal decisions for the minor child(ren).
Sole Legal Custody: Sole legal custody means one parent will make all important decisions for the child. 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. Sole legal custody may be appropriate if there has been domestic violence in the home or in the presence of the child; special physical or mental needs of a parent or child makes joint legal custody unreasonable, or other factors under the law.
Joint Legal Custody: Joint legal custody means both parents will make decisions for the child. 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 be have a dispute resolution provision to provide the parties with a process whereby they can work through their differences.
Sole Physical Custody: If sole physical custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent is awarded “parent-time” (visitation) with the minor child(ren). Utah has a standard schedule of parent-time which allows weekly contact, alternating holidays, and alternating. The standard parent-time 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 a child.
Joint Physical Custody: Joint physical custody means that the parties share pysical time with the children who live in both homes. 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 fifty-fifty time sharing schedule. Rather, It generally means the child(ren) 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.
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 these factors are:
- The strength of the child’s bond with either of the parents as well as their siblings.
- The benefit of maintaining previously instated arrangements to 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.
At Burton Attorneys at Law we will help you understand the complex issue of physical and legal custody. We understand that custody is often one of the most difficult and contentious issues faced by parties. We know that the issue of custody weighs far differently on our clients than does a financial or child support issue. We know the outcome of custody will greatly impact the life of you and your children. Our firm has handled hundreds of custody battles and, frankly, we know what we are doing.
We know it is often possible to reach resolutions relating to complicated and contentious custody matters. We will work toward a collaborative solution relating to your custody concerns. In the event it is simply not possible for both parents to successfully come to an agreement, we will work with child custody evaluators and other experts to achieve a desired result at trial.