Child Custody Law in Utah

By Wayne Thomas

Utah places a strong emphasis on both parents having meaningful contact with their children following a divorce. To that end, the law sets a minimum visitation requirement as part of most custody arrangements. Agreements between parents are encouraged and will be supported by the court so long as they promote the child's best interests. Utah courts retain the authority to modify an existing order if conditions change and may find a parent in contempt if an order is not followed.

Types of Custody

Under Utah law, custody is separated into two related categories, legal and physical. The power to make major life decisions for a child, including religious affiliation, where the child attends school and health care matters, falls under the category of legal custody. This is in contrast to physical custody, which describes where the child lives from day to day. Each component of custody may be ordered to one parent or both parents jointly. For practical reasons, physical custody is not always divided evenly between parents.

Considerations

When Utah parents can agree to a custody arrangement, they can submit a parenting plan to the court and request that it be adopted by court order. However, the court is not obligated to follow the parent's suggestion; a judge must evaluate whether the arrangement promotes the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court will balance such factors as the degree to which each parent participated in the raising of the child, the geographic proximity of each parent's residence and the ability of each parent to cooperate in making child-related decisions.

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Minimum Visitation

Unless the child's well-being would be put in danger, Utah law provides a minimum amount of visitation that must be granted to noncustodial parents. The exact time differs depending on the age of the child, with parents of children between the age of 5 and 18 generally getting one weeknight per week as well as alternating weekends. Parents of children under 5 start with six hours of contact per week, with a gradual increase over time to include overnights. Regardless of the visitation arrangement, both parties must honor the order's provisions. Failure to follow the schedule may result in a finding of contempt, accompanied by fines or even jail time.

Material Change

If either parent wishes to modify an existing custody order, he may submit a request to the court. If the parties agree on the modification, the court will adjust the provisions of the order so long as it is consistent with the child's best interest. If the parties do not agree, the parent seeking modification needs to demonstrate to the court that a material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the date of the original order and that a modification is necessary to further the child's best interest. Examples of changes warranting modification could include the remarriage of either parent or the child changing schools.

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New York Statute for Visitation
 

References

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Child Visitation Laws in Kentucky

Any parent who does not have custody of a minor child is entitled to visitation with the child, according to Kentucky law. However, a judge will limit or deny visitation if the court finds that visitation is not in the best interests of the child. For instance, a parent who is accused of abusing alcohol in the presence of the child could lose his visitation rights. Kentucky also gives grandparents the option to petition the court for visitation rights, which is not possible in every state.

Can You Write a Letter to the Court Requesting a Visitation Modification in Indiana?

Indiana has instituted very specific child custody laws and guidelines to help shield children from parental conflict. Consequently, parents must follow certain procedures to modify a visitation schedule and merely writing to the court is not sufficient. You and your ex may adopt any visitation schedule you both agree to, but to have the schedule legally recognized and enforceable, the judge must issue a new visitation order.

Alabama Joint Custody When Parents Live Far Apart

Before 2012, Alabama law gave family law judges a considerable amount of leeway in determining what type of custody arrangements were in the best interest of the child. While the law favored joint custody, unless the parents agreed on a different arrangement, judges could consider a number of factors that might make a joint custody arrangement unfeasible. One factor was the physical location of each parent. However, when the Alabama legislature adopted the 2012 Alabama Children's Family Act, the geographical proximity of the parents was eliminated as a factor in awarding custody. Whether the 2012 Act is an improvement is a matter of debate.

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