If you are going through a divorce in Utah, it's important to put the love of your children above any negative emotions you may be feeling toward your spouse. In all likelihood, you and your spouse will need to cooperate on parenting issues in the future. How you resolve child custody and visitation issues during your divorce can set the tone for how you will work together to raise your children in the future.
It is important to have experienced representation during child custody negotiations and hearings: the future of your children is at stake. In Utah, child custody and parent time (visitation) are determined by what is in the best interests of the child. The court may consider the conduct and moral character of each parent as well as which parent is likely to act in the child's best interests. The bond of the child with each parent will also be taken into account. Children may express their wishes regarding custody, but this alone will not determine child custody.
Legal Custody and Physical Custody
There are two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. The parent(s) with legal custody will make decisions regarding health care, education and religion. Physical custody is the term for the parent with whom the children will live. Both legal and physical custody can be sole, joint or split.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody in Utah
There are many different types of child custody arrangements in Utah. However, the labels are less important than coming up with a parenting arrangement that works for your family. Unless there are issues of domestic violence or abuse, Utah courts generally believe it is in the best interests of children to have frequent contact with both parents after divorce.
Sole Custody, Joint Custody and Split Custody
There are three different types of child custody arrangements in Utah:
Sole child custody is when the noncustodial parent has fewer than 111 overnights a year with the children.
Joint child custody is when each parent has more than 110 overnights a year.
Split child custody is when each parent has primary physical custody of one or more children.
Even when both parents have joint custody, one parent often has primary physical custody of the children. The other parent has visitation or parent time according to a schedule. Parents usually have joint legal custody, which is the right to make decisions regarding the health care, education and religion for the child.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, you will be required to have at least one mediation session to reach an agreement before your child custody case can go forward. Our lawyers offer mediation services as an alternative to litigation to resolve child custody disputes.
If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan with the help of lawyers and mediators, the court will decide the final custody orders based on what it perceives to be the best interests of the child.
Our family law attorneys are easy to talk to and will listen carefully to you. We will work with you to obtain the most beneficial custody arrangement for your child.
Maintaining the Parent-Child Relationship
In most situations, children are best served by spending time with both of their parents. Unless there are concerns about parental fitness or ability to care for the child, the court will award parent time (visitation) to the noncustodial parent.
In Utah, child custody and parent time are determined by what is in the best interests of the child. Parents will write a parenting plan that specifies how they will share responsibility for child rearing, including how parent time will be allotted. At Stavros Law, P.C., our attorneys can help you write a parenting plan that makes sense for your family and protects the rights of your children.
The standard schedule of minimum parent time for the noncustodial parent includes three hours on a weeknight, alternating holidays, half of the child's summer vacation and alternating weekends. Typically, this schedule is used by the court when parents cannot agree on a parent time schedule.
Parents are encouraged to create a parent time schedule that meets their family's unique needs. The court generally approves schedules as long as they are in the best interests of the children. You may want a family law attorney to assist you with the creation of your parent time schedule. We can ensure your rights and the rights of your children are protected. In addition, we are skilled negotiators who can argue for your position when necessary.
If a parent does not follow the court-ordered parent time schedule, we can file a motion to find that parent in contempt of court. You cannot withhold parent time from a parent who is not paying court-ordered child support, however.
The parent time schedule may be modified if the needs and circumstances of the children or parents change significantly. We can represent you if you are seeking or contesting modification.
To schedule a free initial telephone consultation, please call (801) 758-7604 or contact us online.
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Stavros Law P.C. is a Utah law firm providing legal services to individuals and businesses in Utah, the Mountain West and across the United States, including Salt Lake City, Draper, Sandy, South Jordan, West Jordan, Lehi, Provo, Orem and Spanish Fork. Our lawyers provide civil litigation, trial and appeal work to clients in federal and state courts throughout the United States. We provide litigation and counseling services for clients in the areas of business and commercial law, employment and labor law, health care law and family law.