There’s a common stereotype that divorce courts are predisposed toward granting mothers child custody. This leads many divorcing fathers to feel nervous about getting to spend time with their children. While custody disputes are nerve-wracking for any parent, Utah residents can rest assured that state laws generally guarantee a minimum amount of visitation time for non-custodial parents, or parents who aren’t awarded sole legal or physical custody.
Minimum Parent-Time Schedules for Divorced Parents in Utah
Child custody arrangements are not uniform. On the contrary, each family’s unique circumstances must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In situations where the parents cannot agree on their own custody plan, it falls to the court to determine an appropriate arrangement as befits the child’s best interests. This means the judge will consider factors such as:
- Whether either parent has a criminal record.
- Whether either parent has any severe physical or mental disabilities which would interfere with their parenting duties.
- Whether the child has a personal preference.
- The financial resources available to each parent.
- How far away the parents live from one another.
Despite these and other variables, there are some rules which remain consistent from case to case. Utah Code § 30-3-35 delineates the minimum parent-time schedule for children aged five to 18 years old, while Utah Code § 30-3-35.5 sets forth the minimum parent-time schedule for children ages four and younger.
“Parent-time” is simply another term for visitation by the non-custodial parent. Note that in some cases, parent-time may be conducted virtually (e.g. over the phone, via webcam). In other scenarios, parent-time must be supervised, meaning another adult must be present to oversee the visit.
The parent-time scheduling portions of the Utah Code are extremely detailed, encompassing minute considerations like precise times of day, how snow days should be treated, and even special rules depending on whether the year happens to end in an odd or even number. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be condensing the statutes down to some core points.
For Parents of Infants, Babies, and Toddlers
First, let’s examine Utah Code § 30-3-35.5 (applicable to children younger than five). If you and your spouse are unable to create a mutually satisfying parenting plan, this portion of code provides the following minimums based on the exact age of your child:
- If your child is less than five months old:
- You get six hours per week, divided into three portions (e.g. two hours each)
- Visitation will take place in either the custodial home, a professional child care setting, or an “environment familiar to the child.”
- If your child is five months to eight months old:
- You get nine hours per week, divided into three portions (e.g. three hours each).
- Visitation takes place in the custodial home, etc.
- If your child is nine months to 11 months old:
- You get one eight-hour visit each week.
- You also get one three-hour visit each week.
- Provided it’s practical and suits the best interests of your child, you can also have “brief telephone contact and other virtual parent-time” at least twice a week.
- If your child is 12 months to 17 months old:
- You get one eight-hour visit every other weekend.
- On the other weekends, you can visit with your child from 6:00 P.M. on Friday night until 12:00 P.M. on Saturday afternoon.
- You get one three-hour visit per week.
- “Brief telephone contact and other virtual parent-time” is permitted at least twice each week.
- If your child is 18 months to two years old:
- Each week, you get one weeknight visit from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
- If your child goes to daycare, you can arrange with your spouse to pick your child up before 5:30 P.M., so long as you return him or her by 8:30 P.M. at the latest.
- You get alternating weekend visits going from 6:00 P.M. on Friday until 7:00 P.M. on Sunday.
- This is the earliest age at which “extended parent-time” becomes available. Extended parent-time means any visitation that falls outside of weekends, holidays (including religious holidays), and Christmas break from school. This extended parent-time can be broken up in several different ways, e.g. two separate weeks (with at least four weeks between them).
- Again, phone contact and virtual parent-time are allowed at least twice per week.
- If your child is three years to four years old:
- You get one weeknight visit from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. Again, non-custodial parents whose children go to daycare can arrange to get their children before 5:30, as long as the child is back home by 8:30.
- You get visits every other weekend, starting at 6:00 P.M. on Friday and ending at 7:00 P.M. on Sunday.
- Extended parent-time is available.
- At least two virtual sessions are allowed each week.
For Parents of Children and Teenagers
If your child is five years old up to 18 years old, the scheduling guidelines are a little different. Below you’ll find the bare minimum visitation times provided by Utah Code § 30-3-35. Unlike the schedules provided by Utah Code § 30-3-35.5, the schedules for children and teens aren’t based on age. Schedules for older children and teenagers are the same, regardless of whether the child is seven or 17.
Under this section of the Code, non-custodial parents are allowed the following visitation times:
- One weeknight per week, to be chosen by you or the court. If you don’t have a preference, the weeknight will default to Wednesday. This three-hour visit will last from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
- Alternating weekend visits, which last from 6:00 P.M. on Friday until 7:00 P.M. on Sunday.
- Note that weekends include Fridays and Mondays when school is cancelled due to snow or other weather conditions, or is cancelled due to teacher development days.
- Extended parent-time visits, which can be structured as four consecutive weeks (one month) during summer vacation.
- This includes weekends, but not holidays.
- Two of the four weeks involve something called “uninterrupted time.” Utah defines uninterrupted time as visitation “without interruption at any time by the presence of the other parent,” including phone calls.
- Please note that your ex-spouse is also entitled to two weeks of uninterrupted time, even though they are the custodial parent. Their two weeks are reserved for vacations during the school year, when summer break is not in session.
- Virtual parent-time, such as phone calls and webcam sessions, are allowed provided you and your spouse live at least 100 miles away from each other.
- All virtual parent-time must be conducted “at reasonable hours and for reasonable duration,” meaning 1:00 A.M. phone calls or calls that last for hours will not be permitted.
- As always, virtual parent-time is only allowed if it serves the best interests of the child.
Visitation Tables for Holidays and Birthdays
Unless there are extreme circumstances, children spend Father’s Day with the father, regardless of whether he is the biological father or adopted the child. Utah Father’s Day visitation officially starts at 9:00 A.M. and ends at 7:00 P.M. (Note the same rules apply to adoptive/biological mothers on Mother’s Day.)
As noted above, holiday visitation varies depending on whether the current year – not the year the divorce decree was granted – ends in an even or odd number. Since 2015 won’t last forever, and the allotted holidays alternate by year, we’ve included the schedules for both odd and even years below:
- For odd years (e.g. 2015, 2017):
- Child’s birthday – 3:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M., siblings potentially included
- Fourth of July – 6:00 P.M. on July 3 until 6:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. on July 5
- Labor Day – 6:00 P.M. on Friday until 7:00 P.M. on Monday
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – 6:00 P.M. on Friday until 7:00 P.M. on Monday
- Spring Break – 6:00 P.M. on the last day of school until 7:00 P.M. on the Sunday before school starts again
- Veteran’s Day – 6:00 PM. the day before Veteran’s Day until 7:00 P.M. on Veteran’s Day
- Christmas Break – The first half of Christmas Break, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, until 1:00 P.M. at the halfway point of the vacation
- For even years (e.g. 2016, 2018):
- Child’s birthday – 3:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M., siblings potentially included
- Memorial Day – 6:00 P.M. on Friday until 7:00 P.M. on Monday
- Columbus Day – 6:00 P.M. the day before Columbus Day until 7:00 P.M. on Columbus Day
- Halloween – From the time school lets out until 9:00 P.M. (otherwise 4:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.)
- Thanksgiving – From the preceding Wednesday at 7:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. on Sunday
- Christmas Break – The second half of Christmas Break, starting at 1:00 P.M. at the halfway point of the vacation
Divorce lawyer Darwin Overson is committed to protecting the legal rights of biological and adoptive fathers in custody disputes. If your former spouse is withholding visitation, we can help you fight for the parent-time you’re entitled to under Utah’s divorce laws.
To start talking about your family’s situation in a free and completely confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 today. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can help get you on the path toward spending more time with your son or daughter.