How do Utah courts decide child custody?
Courts decide custody based on the “best interest of the child” standard. That means if the parents themselves cannot agree on custody, a judge will decide what he or she thinks is best for their children.
Typically the most important factor the court considers is the past conduct and history of the parents themselves. If the parents have been separated for a considerable period of time and one of them has assumed the role of “primary caretaker,” that parent is likely to be awarded primary custody. But if the parents have been equally sharing the day-to-day responsibilities of being a parent the court will consider awarding joint custody.
Unfortunately, sometimes great parents do not get to spend equal or even as much time as they’d like with their children because the other parent will not allow it. If and when this kind of alienation happens, Utah courts take it into consideration. It can even be a basis for awarding custody to the other parent.
Other important factors the court considers in deciding custody are:
(1) whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint custody;
(2) the ability of each parent to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions about their kids;
(3) whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent (contact, love, affection, etc.)
(4) whether both parents participated in raising the child before they separated;
(5) extent of bonding between the parent and children;
(6) any history of domestic violence, abuse, or kidnapping towards a child or the other parent;
(7) the geographical distance between each parent’s home;
(8) the preference of the child (if the child is old enough to form an intelligent preference as to custody, which is usually age 14 and up);
(9) the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from exposure to parental conflict. Or, if parents do not have a track record of being able to work together what each parent proposes to do about that problem;
(10) the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make joint decisions;
(11) whether a parent has exposed the child to pornography or other material harmful to a child;
(12) how involved each parent has been in the child’s life (day-to-day child rearing, involvement in daycare, volunteering at school, preparing meals, bath time, homework, etc.);
(13) each parent’s work/school schedule and ability to facilitate increased parent-time;
(14) moral character and emotional stability;
(15) ability to provide personal rather than surrogate care;
(16) any history of drug or alcohol abuse;
(17) the child’s relationship with extended family members (e.g. step-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-siblings, etc.)
(18) stability and financial responsibility;
This list is by no means exhaustive. Courts have broad discretion to consider just about any factor in addition to the ones listed above that will help it decide what arrangement is best. After all, every family is unique and a custody solution that is ideal for one family may not work for another.
Give us a call today at 855-254-2600 for help with your child custody and parent-time case.