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Utah Child Custody
Child Custody in Utah

According to Utah Code 30-3-10, the court may award any form of child custody determined to be in the best interest of the child.

Utah child custody laws aim to protect the best interest of the child.

The family courts encourage divorcing parents to cooperate about the plans concerning child rearing after divorce. Divorcing parents are strongly encouraged to come to an agreement outside court outlining how they plan to raise their child after divorce. When parents are unable to come to terms and a dispute arises, the court settles issues on child custody, support, and visitation rights.

As governed by child custody laws in Utah, the family courts have jurisdiction over child custody cases. The judge decides the rights and responsibilities of the custodial parent and visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody

Under Utah custody laws, physical custody means the child stays at that parent's house for 30 percent or more of the year. This provision makes joint physical custody possible. Under Utah law, legal custody refers to the parent's duties, privileges, rights and powers of authority over the minor children. A Utah court has the authority to award joint legal custody or joint physical custody, or the court may allocate these rights to each parent.

Utah Child Custody Laws

Custody arrangements are joint legal or physical custody depending on the custody case. In deciding custody the court considers:

  • the child's wishes or preferences as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims, which is considered at 12 or older;
  • the child's emotional, physical, and psychological needs;
  • the parents' wishes or preferences as to custody;
  • the parents' geographical proximity as it affects future availability;
  • the parents' ability to cooperate, past or present, with each other in making decisions for their child;
  • the parents' willingness and ability to foster and encourage a constructive relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • the parents' past conduct as well as moral standards;
  • which parent is likely to respond to the best interests of the child;
  • which parent is likely to permit regular and continuing contact between the child and the other parent;
  • the parents who participated in child rearing before filing for custody;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • Any other factors that the court finds relevant and directly affects the child's best interests such as the nature of the parent-child relationship.

Either joint or sole custody may be awarded to the parent who is capable of fulfilling duties of a custodian.

Joint Child Custody in Utah

Utah courts prefer to award divorced parents joint custody of their child. The courts evaluate whether the child will have his emotional and physical needs met in a joint arrangement. Both parents must demonstrate that they can make the child's well being their top priority, and that they will work together to make decisions that serve the child's best interest. It is also likely that joint child custody will be awarded in Utah if both parents were actively involved in raising the child before the divorce.

The court in Utah will always consider joint physical or legal custody if both parties have completed a parenting plan and if joint custody serves the best interests of the child. In deciding for joint custody, the court considers:

  • the geographical proximity between the parents;
  • each parent's ability to place the needs of the child first in reaching appropriate decisions;
  • whether both parents have always participated in the child's upbringing
  • the child's wishes, if the child is of an age to express a reasonable preference (generally age 12 or older);
  • any history of child abuse, spousal abuse or kidnapping;
  • each parent's maturity and ability to avoid conflict for the sake of the child;
  • the parents' ability to cooperate with one another; and
  • any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

Modification of Child Custody

Upon request by one parent, the Utah family court may modify or terminate a custody arrangement if the change affects the best interests of the child, the child or the parent has had a material and substantial change of circumstances, and both parents have complied with the dispute resolution process.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

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