A primer on child custody and parenting time in Utah

Parents divorcing in Utah should understand potential custody arrangements, the custody determination process and possible complications that may arise.

Every year, thousands of parents throughout the U.S. face the prospect of raising their children together after getting divorced. In total, almost 1.5 million children in the country see their parents divorce each year, according to Scientific American. Often, these parents may be confused about their legal rights, responsibilities and options going forward. This makes it imperative for parents in Utah to be familiar with local laws on child custody and parenting time.

Potential arrangements

Utah law distinguishes between two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions about the children and their upbringing, while physical custody refers to where the children live. Parents may share both forms of custody, or one parent may be granted sole legal and sole physical custody. Alternately, parents may share one form of custody while the second form of custody is granted only to one parent.

Determination process

If parents can agree on how to divide custody and parenting time, a family law court must assess whether the arrangement is in the children's best interests and formally approve it. If parents cannot come to terms, or if their proposed arrangement does not serve the children's best interests, the court must award custody and parenting time. In these cases, state law presumes that joint legal custody is optimal, but this is a rebuttable presumption.

The court may consider many factors to find an appropriate arrangement, including the following variables:

· Each parent's ability to act in the children's best interests and support their relationship with the other parent

· The ability of both parents to cooperate and make decisions on behalf of their children together

· Each parent's behavior, morals and relationship with the children

· The preferences of the children, if they are sufficiently mature

· Pragmatic issues, such as how close to one another the parents live

Any other factor that the court finds relevant may also be taken into account.

Possible complications

Several factors can complicate the process of determining custody. For example, in cases of abuse or domestic violence, the risk that joint custody poses to the children must be weighed and special measures, such as supervised visitation, may be necessary. Similarly, if one parent is seeking to move with the children to a location more than 150 miles away from the other parent, the court must evaluate whether the relocation would be in the children's best interests.

Obtaining help

Determining child custody and parenting time can be one of the most difficult, contentious parts of a divorce. As a result, most parents can benefit from seeking the assistance of an attorney. An attorney may be able to ensure that a parent's case is presented fairly while helping the parent pursue an arrangement that best serves his or her children.