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Utah Child Custody Laws

When a couple with children breaks up, the responsibility to care for the children must be shared by both parents. An important aspect is child custody or with whom the child will live with and what visitation with the other parent will be like. Another part of this responsibility is financial support, in the form of child support.

Best Interest of the Child

Utah family courts, like those in most states, determine child custody matters using the “best interests of the child.” The factors considered by the judge include:

  • Past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of the parties
  • Parent most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing child frequent contact with non-custodial parent
  • Bonding between each parent and the child
  • If a parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or other harmful sexual-related materials
  • Physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the child
  • Both parent’s ability to reach shared decisions for the child and prioritize the child’s welfare
  • If both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce
  • The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes
  • The child’s preferences
  • Parents ability to protect child from their conflict
  • Past and present ability to cooperate with each other in parenting and making decisions
  • Any history of child abuse, domestic violence, or kidnapping
  • Any other relevant factors

When parents can’t develop their own parenting schedule, the court can establish an appropriate schedule more or less than the statutory minimum parent-time based on the following best interest of the child factors:

  • How parent-time would negative impact child's physical health and emotional development
  • Distance between child’s home and the non-custodial parent’s home
  • Allegations of child abuse
  • Lack of demonstrated parenting skills when there’s no safeguards to ensure child’s safety
  • Financial inability of non-custodial parent to provide food and shelter during parent-time
  • Child’s preference, if sufficiently mature
  • Parent’s incarceration
  • Shared interests of the child and non-custodial parent
  • Non-custodial parent’s involvement in the child’s school, community, religious, or other related activities
  • Non-custodial parent’s availability to care for the child when the custodial parent is working or has other obligations
  • Chronic pattern of missing, canceling or denying regularly scheduled parenting time
  • Parent-time schedule of siblings
  • Lack of reasonable alternatives for nursing child
  • Any other criteria the court feels is relevant to the best interests of the child

The following chart outlines the child custody laws in Utah.

Code Sections Utah Code Title 30, Chapter 3: Divorce, Chapter 5: Grandparents, and Chapter 5a: Custody and Visitation for Persons Other Than Parents Act
Uniform Child Custody Act The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was enacted in Utah in 2000. This Act superseded the previously adopted version, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA).
Joint Custody In Utah, parents can have joint custody, including joint physical custody (where the child lives) and joint legal custody (who can make life, medical, educational, etc. decisions for a child).
Grandparent Visitation Grandparents can get visitation rights to see their grandchildren. Additionally, a grandparent or any other adult relative by marriage or blood who raised a child could get custody or visitation of the child, if it’s found to be in the child’s best interests.
Child’s Wishes A child’s wishes are considered by the court when the judge feels the child is sufficiently mature and has the capacity to reason to form an intelligent preference.

If you need to create or modify a parenting plan in a Utah court, than you should speak with an experienced local child custody lawyer about your options.

Note: As state laws are constantly being updated, it’s important to verify these child custody laws by contacting an attorney or conducting your own legal research.

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