Child custody is one of the most contested matters within divorce. It’s a long-lasting decision that should be made with a firm understanding of what you are seeking and the terms that go hand in hand with it. Utah custody can be confusing, especially if it’s your first time going through a legal matter that involves custody matters. Below is a simplified version of the types of custody in Utah, broken down into two areas:
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 sometimes be appropriate depending on the situation.
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. The parenting plan will need to be have a dispute resolution provision to provide the parties with a process whereby they can work through differences that may arise regarding the child.
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 various standard schedules of parent-time which allows weekly contact, alternating holidays, and summer parent-time. The standard parent-time statues are found in Utah Code Ann. §30-3-35, 30-3-35.1, and §30-3-35.5. The court may use one of these schedules, depending on the circumstances, or the parties may agree on a schedule of their own.
Joint Physical Custody: Joint physical custody means that the parties share physical time with the children who live in both homes. Joint physical custody will often 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.
For more information, please see Utah Code Ann. §30-3-10 and Rules of Judicial Administration §4-903.
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. However, the overarching rule the court abides by is what is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Having an experienced attorney looking out for your rights can make all the difference when dealing with custody matters. If you have an interest in having a bigger part of your child’s life, contact us today to assist with your Utah custody case. We can discuss Utah custody laws and help you to make an educated decision to fit your family’s needs.
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