Utah law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Utah, parents must submit a parenting plan to the court before their divorce is approved. If parents cannot agree on a plan, they must submit separate, proposed parenting plans.
What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?
Utah courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child. These factors include:
- Who has been the child’s primary caregiver,
- The depth and quality of the parent-child relationship,
- The physical and mental health of the child and parents,
- The distance between the parents’ residences,
- The parents’ conduct and moral standards,
- Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse,
- The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate), and
- The parents’ wishes.
A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. The court also cannot base a custody determination solely on a parent’s disability (unless the parent is unable to care for his or her child).
In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests. If parents cannot agree to a parenting plan, the guardian ad litem will submit his or her parenting recommendations. Utah also has statewide visitation and parenting guidelines. These guidelines help structure parenting time and visitation rights.
What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?
Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan.
Should I Contact a Utah Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?
Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.