Understanding Utah Laws Regarding Custody and Parental Evaluations

Many divorces involving custody disputes eventually go the way of a custody evaluation. Understanding the laws in Utah that apply to custody evaluations can help you be effective in the process and can help you to ensure you are looking out for your children’s best interests. Below is a brief summary of a some of the relevant laws in Utah regarding custody and parental evaluations:

  • Utah R. Juv. P. 33(a) provides for pre-adjudication physical,
    psychological, or other evaluations for both parents and child. Parties do not have to wait for adjudication.
  • In Tuckey v. Tuckey, 649 P.2d 88 (1982), the court held the trial judge is not bound by the recommendations of the child custody evaluator.
  • In State in re E.C., 2008 UT, App 347. The court found that requiring a parent to submit to a psychosexual evaluation is not an unreasonable condition when the parent has past history.

UR.Jud.Admin 4-903 set forth the basic legal standards for child custody evaluations, here is a summary:

  • Custody evaluations shall be performed by persons with minimum qualifications (set forth in the rule).
  • Every motion or stipulation for the performance of a custody evaluation shall include certain provision (see the rule).
  • The purpose of the custody evaluation will be to provide the court with information it can use to make decisions regarding custody and parenting time arrangements that are in the child’s best interest. This is accomplished by assessing the prospective custodians’ capacity to parent, the developmental, emotional, and physical needs of the child, and the fit between each prospective custodian and child. Unless otherwise specified in the order, evaluators must consider and respond to each of the following factors; (see the child custody factors set forth in prior child custody blogs).
  • In cases in which specific areas of concern exist such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, and the evaluator does not possess specialized training or experience in the areas of concern, the evaluator shall consult with those having specialized training or experience. The assessment shall take into consideration the potential danger posed to the child’s custodian and the children.
  • In cases in which psychological testing is employed as a component of the evaluation, it shall be conducted by a licensed psychologist who is trained in the use of the tests administered, and adheres to the ethical standards for the use and interpretation of psychological tests in the jurisdiction in which he or she is licensed to practice. If psychological testing is conducted with adults and/or children, it shall be done with knowledge of the limits of the testing and should be viewed within the context of information gained from clinical interviews and other available data. Conclusions drawn from psychological testing should take into account the inherent stresses associated with divorce and custody disputes.

Salt Lake Family Law and Custody Attorney

For more information on custody evaluations, parental evaluations, or anything else related to child custody, divorce, or other family law matters, contact a Salt Lake Family Law and Custody Attorney at our office today.

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