Does Sole Custody Really Mean “Sole” Custody?

What does Sole Custody Look Like in Utah?

Sole custody still means each parent shares the children.
There’s more to sole custody than the “sole”.

The term “sole custody” can be confusing. A lot of people think it means that the person with sole custody – the custodial parent – gets the children 100% of the time and the other parent gets to see the children only at the custodial parent’s discretion. This is not the case. Utah statutory law sets forth what sole custody means for both parents and each parent has defined rights. Keep in mind that the law prefers that divorced parents work together to come up with their own parent time schedule coparenting will benefit the children more than a court-imposed schedule and restrictions.

Under a sole custody arrangement the non-custodial parent has the following weekday parenting time:

  • One weekday from 5:30 PM until 8:30 PM. Wednesday is the default day if there is no day specified; or, one weekday, under the same limitations listed above, from the time school dismisses until 8:30 PM; or, if there is no school, one weekday from 9 AM until 8:30 PM, assuming the non-custodial parent is available to be with the child during that time frame. The day chosen must work with the custodial parent/s work schedule.

The noncustodial parent has the following weekend parenting time in a sole custody arrangement:

  • Alternating weekends from 6 PM on Friday until 7 PM on Sunday, to be started on the first weekend after the court order is made.
  • The option to request that the weekend parenting time begin at the dismissal of school until 7 PM on Sunday; or, if school is not in session, the non-custodial parent’s time may begin at 9 AM on Friday until 7 PM Sunday, if the noncustodial parent is available to be with the child during that time and it works with the custodial parents work schedule.

For weekday and alternating weekend pick-ups and drop-off a stepparent, grandparent, or other responsible adult chosen by the noncustodial parent may pick up the child. This is, of course, as long as the custodial parent is aware of the identity of whom is picking up the child and that the noncustodial parent will be with the child no later than 7 PM on the date of pick-up.

Noncustodial parents also have parent time rights for holidays. In addition to what are generally accepts as “holidays” such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, holidays also include snow days, teacher development days, or any other days that school is not in session which are contiguous to the holiday. Holidays also take precedence over the alternating weekend schedule. Birthdays, though, take precedence over holidays and extended parenting time, excluding Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. If a non-custodial holiday time falls on a regularly scheduled school day it is the noncustodial parent’s responsibility to ensure the child is in school that day. Utah Law has also set the specifics for noncustodial parents to have their holiday parenting time according to whether the year is ending in an even or odd number.

Thus, although many people want “sole” custody because they believe that effectively cuts out the other parent, Utah law does not allow for that to happen and a noncustodial parent always has minimum parent time rights with the children unless that parent’s rights have been terminated or otherwise limited by court order.

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