What Parent-Time / Visitation Schedules Do Utah Courts Use?
“Parent-time” means the schedule of when a child will be each parent if they are separated. Utah has moved away from the old-fashioned (and derogatory) term “visitation” because judges have begun to recognize that noncustodial parents do not simply “visit” with their children; they are always parenting and deserve to be treated with respect.
There is no presumption for or against shared physical custody under Utah law. Rather, physical custody is supposed to be decided on a case by case basis based on what is best for the child. See Utah Code 30-3-10(5). “Joint physical custody” in Utah means that the child stays with each parent overnight at least 1/3 of the year and both parents contribute to the expenses of their child in addition to child support. It can but does not have to mean sharing equal (or nearly equal) amounts of time with each parent. It also does not prohibit the court for designating one parent’s home as the “primary” residence for school purposes. See Utah Code 30-3-10.1(2).
If the Court decides joint physical custody is best for your child there are many schedules it may adopt. One popular joint custody schedule is known as the “2-2-5” or “2-2-3” schedule. The way it works is one parent receives every Monday and Tuesday, the other every Wednesday and Thursday, and the parents alternate weekends from Friday until Monday morning. Ideally exchanges take place at school or daycare because research has shown it is psychologically easier on kids to transition between a parent and school/daycare than it is from one parent to the other. Another option is week on / week off parent-time. Or parents may elect to go with a hybrid schedule.
Sometimes the Court may decide a 50-50 parent-time schedule is not feasible but nonetheless recognize joint physical custody is in the child’s best interest. A popular alternative schedule is the one found in Section 30-3-35.1 of the Utah Code. This schedule gives the nonresidential parent alternating weekends from Friday after school until Monday morning with a school drop off, an overnight parent-time session every week, 1/2 of all major holidays, and 4-weeks of extended parent-time during the summer. This comes out to the child spending about 40% of the time with the nonresidential parent and 60% with the custodial parent.
If the Court does not believe joint physical custody is in your child’s best interest it may adopt the standard schedule found in Utah Code 30-3-35 (if your child is 5 years or older) or 30-3-35.5 (if your child is under 5 years old). The standard “35” schedule gives the nonresidential parent alternating weekends from Friday after school until Sunday evening, a midweek parent-time session from after school until that evening, 1/2 of all major holidays, and 4-weeks of extended parent-time during the summer.
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