Park City Child Custody Lawyer
Helping Families with Child Custody & Parent-Time Cases
Whether they arise from divorce or a stand-alone case, child custody proceedings are incredibly important–and their outcomes can impact children and families long after a resolution is reached.
Family matters are always complicated, even more so when two co-parents decide they need a divorce. The most important thing for anyone in this situation is making sure their child will end in a situation that is best for them. Dodd & Kuendig provides personalized support and representation in a range of child custody matters, including:
- Child custody disputes, negotiation, and litigation
- Parent-time and parenting plans
- Child custody modifications
- Enforcement of custody / parent-time
- Parental relocation
- Military issues and child custody (Uniform Deployed Parents Custody, Parent-time, and Visitation Act)
- Termination of parental rights
At Dodd & Kuendig, we know child custody disputes, negotiations, and enforcement actions can be complex. For parents and other parties who want to protect their rights and the best interests of their children, the calm and creative guidance of experienced attorneys is crucial. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping families through complex divorce matters. We take the time to get to know you so we can plan and fight for a solution that meets your needs.
If you are considering a divorce and have children, or if you have a child custody or parent-time matter, our Park City attorneys are here to help. Call (435) 296-7434 or contact us online to request a free consultation.
Child Custody Considerations in Utah
In Utah, state divorce laws govern child custody even if a case involves parents who were never married. They also address matters such as the termination of parental rights or custody sought by other family members, such as grandparents.
Child custody has two primary components:
- Legal Custody, or the right to make important decisions about a child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and other major aspects of their life.
- Physical Custody, which pertains to where a child will live.
While Utah Courts generally prefer to award custody to both parents who will share rights and responsibilities, it is not always the case that shared custody (known as “joint custody” in Utah) is possible or in the best interests of a child. As such, there are various arrangements a court may grant:
- Sole Legal & Sole Physical Custody: Either parent can be awarded sole custody of a child, meaning the child will live with one parent (physical custody) who has the exclusive right to make important life decisions on their behalf (legal custody). Non-custodial parents in these circumstances will typically have the right to parent-time (or “visitation”) with their children.
- Joint Legal & Joint Physical Custody: Joint custody provides both parents with the right to make important decisions for their children and allows children to live with both parents. Joint custody is viewed as an optimal arrangement in situations where parents are able to effectively communicate, compromise, and co-parent. Because joint physical custody means children live with each parent at least 111 nights a year, it also works best when both parents live in the same geographic area, although parents can reach agreements about how to share physical custody in a way that works for them (i.e. summers and vacations at one parent’s home).
- Split Custody: Split custody is not the same as joint custody. It applies to cases involving parents with more than one child and means that each parent is awarded sole physical custody of at least one of the children. Depending on the circumstances, legal custody may be shared or sole.
What Do Utah Courts Consider in Child Custody Cases?
The gold standard in any custody or family law case involving minor children is the best interests of the child. It is this standard to which Courts will refer when making determinations that impact kids.
Per Utah Code § 30-3-10, there are a number of factors courts will consider when determining custody or parent-time. Generally, these include:
- Each parent’s ability and desire to care for a child;
- Each parent’s moral and financial ability to meet a child’s needs;
- Each parent’s parenting / co-parenting skills;
- Whether parents have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other conduct that may not be in a child’s best interests;
- A child’s relationship with other family members or individuals who may affect the child’s best interests; and
- Other relevant factors.
Though courts can consider a child’s preference, especially when children are 14 or older, it is not a determining factor in custody cases. Additionally, there is a legal presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child unless there are circumstances that would prove otherwise, such as a parent’s history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse, a child’s special needs, or parents that live far apart.
How Does Visitation (Parent-Time) Work in Utah?
Visitation, which is called “Parent-time” in Utah, refers to the time a non-custodial parent spends with their child. If parents are unable to come to an agreement about arrangements for parent-time, Courts may use a minimum parent-time schedule based on the age of the child:
- For children under 5, Utah Code § 30-3-35 provides for various minimum parent-time based on a child’s specific age (i.e. under 5 months, under 9 months, and over 1 year, 18 months, and 3 years old) that includes guidelines for weekly hours, weekends, and holidays.
- For children 5-18, Utah Code § 30-3-35.5 entitles parents to one weekday evening, one weekday from the time of school closure to 8:30 pm, or one weekday from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm, as well as alternating weekends, holiday time, and other situation-specific parent-time.
- For children 5-18 (optional schedule), Utah Code § 30-3-35.1) provides an optional parent-time schedule of 145 overnights with the noncustodial parent.
Determining parent-time is an important part of the child custody process, and it can be effectively resolved with the assistance of attorneys who can devise sensible parenting plans and creative solutions that protect the rights and interests and both parents and children.
At Dodd & Kuendig, our team also assists clients in matters of parental relocation, custody modifications, and enforcement of parent-time.
Speak with a Park City Custody Attorney Today
At Dodd & Kuendig, our legal team is comprised of experienced attorneys and support staff who are passionate about helping clients navigate unfamiliar legal proceedings. If you have a child custody or parent-time case anywhere in Park City, Summit County, or the surrounding areas of Utah, we’re here to help. Contact us to speak personally with a lawyer about your rights and options.