Going through a divorce always brings many changes, challenges, and legal considerations. But when you are going through a divorce as a parent, nothing about the process could be more important than obtaining a favorable custody arrangement which will allow you to spend as much time as you can with your loved ones. However, because custody plans are ultimately determined by the courts, it is absolutely critical that your interests are represented by a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
Family law and child custody lawyer Rex Bray is dedicated to helping clients in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah, and offers free and private initial consultations.
To arrange for a case evaluation at absolutely no cost, call (801) 708-0913 today.
What Types of Child Custody Arrangements are Available?
Custody arrangements are not one-size-fits-all. Instead, there are many different forms which may be available to you. For example:
- Legal — This refers to the major decisions that must be made about the child until he or she turns 18. For example, what sort of education and medical care will he or she have? What about joining the military, or even getting a tattoo? What sort of religion, if any, will the child be raised in?
- Physical — This refers to where the child will physically reside the majority of the time.
- Sole — Sole physical custody means the child resides with the custodial parent at least 225 nights of the year, while sole legal custody means that only one parent has legal authority to make major decisions about the child’s life.
- Joint — This means that time and authority are divided roughly equally. Physically speaking, the child would reside with each parent at least 111 nights each year. Legally speaking, both parents would contribute to making major lifestyle decisions.
- Split — This means that each parent has sole physical custody of at least one child, while legal custody may be sole or shared between non-custodial parents. For obvious reasons, this arrangement is only available for families with multiple children.
These arrangements can also be mixed. For example, depending on the family’s circumstances, it would be entirely possible to have joint legal custody and sole physical custody at the same time.
Many parents’ greatest fear is never being able to see their child at all. However, even if the custodial spouse is awarded a sole legal and sole physical arrangement, the non-custodial spouse is still entitled to parent time (i.e. visitation), provided such an arrangement is financially feasible and is in the child’s best interests. Utah law provides a different set of visitation time minimums depending on whether the child is under five years old (30-3-35.5), or is aged five to 18 (30-3-35).
How Are Child Custody Arrangements Decided in Utah?
It is a common and persistent myth that custody is automatically granted to the mother. In reality, the key issue is determining what sort of arrangement will ultimately grant the child or children the best possible quality of life, regardless of the parent’s gender. In order to make such a determination, the court will consider many different questions and variables, such as:
- Does each parent have the financial ability to properly support the child?
- If the child is of sufficient age to make such a decision, does he or she have a personal preference?
- Would the child be at risk of exposure to domestic violence or other harm in either home? Does either parent have a history which involves kidnapping or child abuse? Does either parent have a criminal record, particularly one which involves violent crime or crimes against minors?
- Does the child have a disability or any special needs to consider?
- How far away do the parents live from one another?
- Are the parents able to cooperate and work together in the best interests of the child?
- Is either parent going to try to prevent the child from seeing his or her other parent?
- Did both parents play an active role in raising the child prior to the divorce?
If you wish, you may retain the services of a professional child custody evaluator. (Note that professional evaluation may also be mandatory and court-ordered.) Evaluators all follow a specific set of statewide regulations, and must consider all determining factors outlined in Rule 4-903 (Uniform Custody Evaluation). Some of these factors include:
- “(5)(B) The benefit of keeping siblings together.”
- “(5)(E)(i) Moral character and emotional stability.”
- “(5)(E)(v) Reasons for having relinquished custody in the past.”
- “(5)(E)(vi) Religious compatibility with the child.”
Experienced Child Custody Attorneys
If you are a parent going through a divorce in Utah, an experienced child custody attorney can aggressively advocate for your rights to help you obtain the most favorable arrangement possible. To arrange for a free and completely confidential initial consultation, call family law attorney Rex Bray at (801) 708-0913 or contact our law offices online today.