Children are affected in many different ways by the divorce or separation of their parents and the breakup of their family. Kids often feel like their whole world has been turned upside down. It is important to be patient and reassure them that they are loved as you navigate through your divorce and put solid child custody and child support arrangements in place. Because both legal and physical custody should be addressed, you need an experienced child custody attorney in Salt Lake County Utah to help you establish effective child custody and parent time agreement.
At What Age in Utah Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?
In Utah, the court will usually not consider a child's preference unless they are 14. However, the child's preferences are not the only factor the court finds. The judge may place more weight on the child's wishes if they are 16 or older. The judge is not obligated to follow the child's wishes.
If you are facing child custody issues, it is important to have a skilled attorney who understands the ins and outs of Utah’s family laws on your side. Eric M. Swinyard & Associates, PLLC, understands Utah’s child custody "best interests" standards and how they can affect your case. Get experienced legal advice in Salt Lake County and Utah County from our South Jordan-based firm.
Call today for your 30-minute consultation: (801) 515-4133.
Types of Child Custody in Utah
Child custody issues in the Beehive State will fall under the broad categories of physical custody and legal custody. The secondary category determines if one or both parents have custody designation. Listed below are Utah’s five child custody types:
Sole Legal Custody
Gives one designated parent the authority to make important decisions, including:
- Health Care
- Child Care
- Sports Participation
- Extracurricular Activities
While the other parent or non-custodial parent does not have decision making power, he or she has the right to be informed of these important decisions.
Sole Physical Custody
Sole or primary custody means the child lives with the designated parent and the other parent may be granted child visitation also known as parent time. The standard Salt Lake County child visitation schedule states that the non-custodial parent is allowed minimum visitation (approximately 86 overnight visits per year), including:
- Every Other Weekend
- One Weekday Evening Each Week
- Two Holidays Per Year
- Four Weeks During Summer Break
Joint Legal Custody
Allows both parents to make decisions about major issues for their child by working together. A joint or shared legal custody agreement must always include a parenting plan in the divorce decree. If the parents were not married, the parenting plan might be included in a judicial paternity order. The degree must also include a provision describing the process for dispute resolution.
- Joint Physical Custody means the child lives with both parents for an equal number of days per year. While the number of days is not specified in Utah, child support begins to be calculated for anything over 111 overnights per year on the required joint custody worksheet.
- Split Physical Custody arrangements can be outlined for parents with more than one child if the court determines it is in the best interest of children to live in separate households. Each parent is awarded sole custody or joint legal custody of each of the children.
Once again, consider that family courts in Utah set terms that they believe are in the child’s best interests for all custody determinations.
Many factors can go into these determinations, including parental wellness, a child’s daily routine, health, and the environment in each home. Learn more information in two sections below.
What is the New Child Custody Law in Utah?
Utah's new child custody law, which went into effect on May 1, 2021, is called the "Equal Parent-Time Schedule." This law allows parents to share equal physical custody of their children unless there is a reason why this would not be in the children's best interests.
The law also provides a standard minimum parent-time schedule if parents cannot agree on a plan.
So whether you are arranging initial custody arrangements or seeking to modify the terms of an existing child custody order, our lawyers can highlight what’s most important to your child.
Is Utah a Mother Custody State?
According to state laws in Utah, a mother naturally or primarily has the right to custody when the child is born to unmarried parents. Meanwhile, a father's name not included on the birth certificate has the right to custody once legally established paternity.
What Are Father's Parental Rights in Utah?
Being a father in Utah gives you legal rights to pursue custody and visitation of your child and to make decisions regarding them. These rights apply even whether you are married or not. But you may have to fight for them, especially in divorce.
Family law attorney Eric Swinyard and his legal team always work with clients to educate them about the law and expectations. These conflicts over custody and visitation rights are consistently best settled out of family court since judges will assess a custody order that may not please either person. At this point, you and your child’s future will rest in the hands of outsiders.
How Child Custody is Determined in Salt Lake County
After separation or divorce, both parents are still legally responsible for the care of their children in the state of Utah. A parenting plan within the divorce decree will outline the role of each parent. Utah law considers a number of factors that help determine child custody by following guidelines for the best interest of the child, including:
- Parent/Child Bonding
- A Child’s Emotional, Physical & Psychological Needs
- Parental Stability
- Each Parents Past & Present Ability to Agree on Shared Decisions
- The Willingness of Each Parent to Encourage Visitation
- The Level of Participation in Raising the Child Before the Divorce
- Each Parent’s Geographic Location
- Parental Criminal History
- The Child’s Preference (Based on Age and Maturity Level)
- Other Factors Relating to the Best Interest of the Child
What Does 50/50 Custody Look Like in Utah?
The most popular 50/50 schedule is the 2/2/5 schedule. In this schedule, children are in one home every Monday and Tuesday. They then go to the other parent's home every Wednesday and Thursday. Parents alternate weekends, so each parent gets an equal number of weekends per year.
Choose an Experienced Salt Lake County Child Custody Attorney
Our South Jordan child custody lawyer is a compassionate family attorney who understands that while parents know that divorce is the best thing for everyone involved, the kids need a sense of securing during this difficult time. When a child custody agreement is in place, parents find that their kids are resilient and will quickly adjust to the new arrangements.
Contact our child custody lawyer in South Jordan UT to schedule your confidential 30-minute consultation and learn about your legal options to protect your child’s best interests and your rights as a parent.
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