Child Custody Laws in Utah

Child Custody Laws in Utah

Child Custody Laws in Utah


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.




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