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Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions

How does family court decide custody?

The Utah Family Court decides custody according to the child’s best interest. That fact remains whether parents agree or disagree on custody arrangements. Joint custody is typically decided unless the child has special needs, the parents reside in separate states or live far apart, there is a history of domestic violence or abuse whether emotional or physical or evidence of neglect. The court determines the best interest of a child based on factors found in the Utah Code Section 30-3-10. Some of these factors include: financial conduct, nature of parent-child relationship, willingness to allow frequent contact with the other parent if the court finds no other circumstances, ability and desire to care for the child, relationships with other family members who are significant in the child’s life, history of violence, abuse or neglect, siblings, and the child’s own wishes.

Who will get custody of our Child?

The court will decide joint or sole custody based on several factors. The ability of the parent to make the child’s welfare his/her priority, whether joint decisions could still be reached, the ability to co-parent and communicate and encourage love and affection for the child, and the parent’s maturity and ability to provide for and protect the child should conflict arise

Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

The law in Utah is clear on whether contact between a parent and child can be withheld because of a parent’s refusal or inability to pay child support. Parent time with a child because of non-payment of child support cannot be withheld by the custodial parent.

What is joint custody? What is sole custody?

Joint custody is an arrangement whereby the child lives with both parents for a specified amount of time. Both parents are involved in making important decisions relating to the child and the good communication lines are open. Joint physical custody stipulates the child live at least 111 days in the home of each parent, each year and works best when parents live in proximity to each other. Sole physical custody stipulates that the child lives with one parent at least 225 days each year. Both parents continue to make decisions based on what is best for the child.

Do grandparents have custody and visitation rights?

Grandparents do not have legal visitation rights. They could have visitation rights but only if there is an independent cause of action in the court to preserve those rights. If the child has been removed from both parents, grandparents could have legal rights, but they must be pursued through the court.

What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?

If there is a joint or physical custody granted to both parents, a parenting plan must be submitted to the court that will prove that parenting time will be allocated to the child. It is a consideration allowed to both parents and is convenient in setting schedules and planning holidays.

How long after a case is opened will i receive child support

Once a court has decided custody and child support has been set, the parent ordered to pay child support must register information with the court and payments are set to begin, usually within 30 days. If a parent does not pay child support as ordered, the custodial parent can go through the court to collect money owed to the child. Once a case is opened, a case record is established within 20 days and action on the case begins. The length of time depends on the circumstances.

When and how do i modify or change a child custody order?

A parent must show how circumstances have changed in order to have a custody agreement modified. The ability to take care of a child, the loss of health or a job would qualify as circumstances that could be granted a modification. The parent seeking the modification must also show how it is in the best interest of the child to change a custody agreement. If the parent can prove a present danger to the child’s health or well-being, a court could grant an immediate custody change.

How can i increase my chances at getting a larger custody agreement?

Several factors will determine a larger custody agreement. The court will always take into consideration what is best for the child before making any decisions on a requested larger agreement.

What are the different types of custody arrangements?

Part-time custody means that one parent has visitation rights and is referred to as the non-custodial parent. The court can order joint custody when the parents are agreeable. The time between them is split each year and this type of agreement is known as joint physical or joint legal.

If my ex stopped paying child support, do they still get visitation?

According to Utah law, a parent continues to receive visitation rights if they don’t pay child support.

What is child custody mediation?

Mediation is arranged when neither can agree and a third party helps mediate the conversation and agreement between the two. It does not involve the court, is private and professional, and allows parents to reach a custody and support agreement.


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Meet Our Team

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    Eric M. Swinyard

    Founding Attorney

    Eric M. Swinyard is a divorce and family law attorney who serves clients throughout the State of Utah. Eric’s practice is primarily focused on providing personalized, high-quality legal services to individuals involved in divorces, paternity actions, adoptions, estate planning, and other family law matters. It’s incredibly easy to be taken advantage of during litigation, especially if you are unrepresented by legal counsel. Protect Your Rights You don’t want to be in a situation where you need ...
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    Ryan Ficklin


    Ryan Ficklin is an associate attorney at Eric M. Swinyard & Associates, PLLC. Prior to practicing law in Utah, Ryan practiced family law in Southern California. In 2017, Ryan relocated back to his home state of Utah to focus on serving the people of Utah who need legal representation, particularly in the family law realm. Ryan graduated with honors from California’s Whittier Law School in May of 2015. While in law school, Ryan was a staff member for The Journal of Child and Family Advocacy. Ryan ...
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    Keith L. Johnson


    Keith joined Eric M. Swinyard & Associates in Fall 2020, bringing more than a decade of experience as a trial attorney in various types of legal cases. He has successfully guided hundreds of individuals through Utah’s court system. Keith previously worked at an established civil litigation firm in Salt Lake as well as a mid-sized regional law firm. He has substantive experience in a variety of practice areas and is now primarily devoted to serving individuals involved in family law cases. Keith ...
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    Mark Hales


    Mark Hales has over 17 years of legal experience in the areas of family, criminal, and civil law. He handles all types of domestic matters, including custody, divorce, child support, alimony, annulment, termination of parental rights, paternity, modifications, and adoptions. In addition, he defends clients charged with domestic violence and abuse, stalking, violations of protective orders, and other and criminal charges. Mark is a certified mediator for all legal matters and is also a certified ...
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    Justin Stringfellow


    Justin Stringfellow has practiced family law in Utah for 20 years, bringing a wealth of experience to Eric Swinyard & Associates in areas such as divorce, custody, paternity, modifications, child support, and adoption proceedings. In the early years of his career, Justin appeared on an estimated 1,500 Protective Order matters. He is an expert in dealing with abuse and domestic violence components in family law matters. As such, he was distinguished by Utah's Domestic Violence Coalition. Justin ...
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    Eliza Crespo


    Eliza Crespo is an associate attorney at Eric Swinyard & Associates. Prior to joining the firm, Eliza practiced estate planning in Utah. Eliza offers a fresh set of eyes to difficult situations and is passionate about providing excellent and compassionate legal services to her clients. Through personal experience, she appreciates the impact of a listening ear and an effective advocate, especially during times of challenge or transition. Eliza obtained her bachelor’s degree and law degree from ...

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