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Child Custody Laws in Utah

Child Custody Laws in Utah



Utah’s child custody laws have undergone significant adjustments over the past decade to address the needs of children and parents involved in custody disputes. The following key updates from 2013 to 2023 highlight Utah’s commitment to modernizing its child custody regulations:

2013 – Child’s Best Interests:

   – Utah reaffirms the child’s best interests as the primary consideration in custody determinations.

2014 – Parenting Plans Requirement:

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

2015 – Joint Custody Emphasis:

   – Emphasis on joint custody arrangements to promote the active involvement of both parents.

2016 – Child’s Preferences Considered:

   – Courts begin considering the child’s preferences when determining custody arrangements.

2017 – Domestic Violence Awareness:

   – Utah starts considering domestic violence history as a significant factor in custody decisions.

2018 – Mental Health Assessment:

   – Introduction of mental health assessments when relevant to parental fitness and child well-being.

2019 – Relocation Guidelines:

   – Establishment of guidelines addressing parental relocations and their impact on existing custody arrangements.

2020 – Co-Parenting Education:

   – Requirement for parents to attend co-parenting education classes to enhance communication and cooperation.

2021 – Grandparent Visitation Rights:

   – Enhancement of grandparent visitation rights when it’s in the child’s best interests.

2022 – Encouraging Child-Centric Agreements:

   – Promotion of child-centric agreements to ensure the child’s welfare remains a top priority.

2023 – Addressing High-Conflict Situations:

   – Utah adopts measures to address high-conflict custody situations and prioritize the child’s safety.

These changes reflect Utah’s ongoing dedication to supporting children and families by adapting its child custody laws to meet the evolving dynamics of modern society.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in Utah

Utah parents who are seeking divorce may not understand the state’s child custody laws before they go to family court.  Child custody laws in Utah are based on the best interests of the child, not the parents, and allow for judges and parents to make whatever arrangements will help the children involved most.  This guide will give you a basic overview so that you can do more specific research about child custody laws in Utah.  After reading this guide, you will understand the types of custody granted by Utah courts and how proposed changes to state laws could change your child custody case.

Can a Child Decide?

In some states, children above a certain age are allowed to determine for themselves which parent they would prefer to live with.  Child custody laws in Utah allow judges to ask children’s preferences with any children who seem old enough to make a reasonable decision.  Children age 16 and older are given “considerable weight” in determining which parent they will live with, but no child’s decision is final.  In all cases, the judge will use the child’s wishes as a factor in awarding child custody, but not the sole determinant.  A law is currently being proposed in Utah (as of 2012) that would give children as young as 14 the right to decide where they live, but it has not yet been passed.  Keep an eye on recent political news developments to make sure you understand the current status of the law.

Physical Custody

When most people refer to “custody,” they’re talking about residency or physical custody.  Physical custody simply means which parent a child is living with.  If each parent is spending at least 110 days with their child, child custody laws in Utah consider this to be joint physical custody.  If a parent is spending less than 110 days with the child, the other parent is said to have primary or even sole physical custody.

Judges may award physical custody based on a number of factors, including how far apart the parents live from each other and their relationship with their child.  Parents who can develop an agreement called a parenting plan can usually get the court to sign off on a physical custody arrangement of their choosing.

Legal Custody

Legal custody, like physical custody, can be either sole or joint.  Child custody laws in Utah use the term legal custody to refer to which parent has the ability to make important decisions on behalf of the child.  In order to choose where your child goes to the doctor, school, or church, you will need to have legal custody rights.

Utah courts will always consider joint legal custody, in which both parents share equal responsibility for making these choices.  However, child custody laws in Utah allow courts to award sole legal custody to either parent if evidence is presented that indicates sole custody would be in the child’s best interest.  Joint legal custody does not necessarily imply joint physical custody, but joint physical custody always means having joint legal custody, as it would be difficult for a parent to reside with their child but be unable to make important decisions for them.