Not surprisingly, custody is often the most contentious issue in a divorce. Many parents enter divorce proceedings
without fully understanding the divorce laws in Utah regarding custody. In Utah, there are a number of factors the Judge will consider in awarding sole custody to one parent, joint custody to both, or some type of modified custody arrangement. If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the custody arrangement you want, you need to understand the steps you should take to show the judge certain factors in your favor have been met. The purpose of this post is to provide a brief summary of the custody factors in Utah.
The Status Quo
One of the most important things a judge will consider in awarding custody is whether or not the status quo is working for the kids. Maintaining stability for the children during the divorce is important. If you are separated, and your spouse is in the marital home with the children as the primary custodial parent, and the children are well adjusted to this arrangement and doing well, it is probably not in their best interests to disrupt this. Therefore, you need to keep the status quo factor at the fore front of your mind if you are going through divorce. It will almost never improve your chances for more custody if you separate and the children don’t live with you or you don’t have regular parent time.
The status quo prior to separation will also likely play a big part. If you were the primary care taker of the kids, meaning you were home most of the time tending to the children’s needs either as a stay at home mom or stay at home dad, you can argue if the children are doing well in the arrangement that it should be maintained in their best interests. In many cases, both parents move and separate either prior to or during the divorce. If you don’t like the status quo custody arrangement, don’t believe it is in your children’s best interests, and wish to see it changed, you should work to do so prior to a judge taking up the issue of custody. A Utah Custody Attorney in our office can help you strategize on changing or maintaining the status quo custody arrangement.
Unfit to Parent
There are a number of factors relating to a parent’s potential unfitness. For instance, of course if you are a drug addict or alcoholic, you are probably not going to be granted a significant amount of custody or parent time. If you are a danger to the children, you will likely only get supervised parent time, no time at all, or in some more extreme cases, your parental rights could be terminated all together. A significant criminal history could also play a role in how the judge determines a custody award. If you have problems in your past but can demonstrate you are a fit parent and the children’s best interests will be served in your care, than you may not be out of luck. Speaking to a Salt Lake City Divorce Attorney at Salcido Law Firm PLLC can help you prepare for arguments of unfitness or in the alternative, aid in proving the other parent’s inability to parent.
The Child’s Preference
We receive many calls each week in which a divorcing parent describes some belief regarding the child’s preference that is entirely false. There is a lot of bad information out there so allow us to set the record straight. First, normally only older more mature children’s preferences are taken into consideration. There is no age in which is is entirely up to the child to decide. Even if your kids are teenagers, there is no guarantee the judge will follow the children’s preferences. On the other hand, if you ave a teenager who is mature and capable of giving impute, such a factor will likely have a significant impact on the judges decision.
The Child/Parent Bond
The bond you have with your child is an extremely important consideration in a custody dispute. If you have been an active and engaged parent in the child’s life than this factor should weigh in your favor. On the other hand, lets say you have been separated for a while and during that time you have not had much if any contact with your child. In that scenario you would not be able to convince a judge, at least not likely, that despite your lack of interest and communication in your child’s life, you have a bond. The fact that you are a birth parent does not itself qualify as a bond.
There are a number of other custody factors a judge may consider such as the ability of each parent to provide good livings conditions, financially stability, etc. At Salcido Law Firm, we provide free consultations over the phone to help parents assess their strengths and weaknesses in a custody dispute, and help strategize on how to improve their arguments for custody, all the while helping them strengthen the relationship they have with their children. We also help clients see what might really be in the best interests of their children. We provide aggressive representation and understand time with your children might mean everything to you. At the same time, if our client has unrealistic expectations for custody we properly advise them of what we think and why. To meet with a member of our firm, call us anytime day or night, or simply send an email. We look forward to helping.