10 East Exchange Place
Suite 622
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Child Custody In The State Of Utah

Child Custody In The State Of UtahInterviewer: How is child custody determined?

Danielle Hawkes: Basically, the courts in Utah like to do joint custody for the majority of cases, joint legal and joint physical but there are reasons that they can move away from those, sort of default options and that can be in cases where one parent is clearly the primary caretaker and the other not so much or if one parent is showing that they are not making decisions in the children’s best interests, or if the parents have shown a history of not being able to make decisions together and then one parent really is better at making the decisions so that’s how the court, there are a bunch of factors the court consider and I’ll go through several of those, discuss them . I’m just going to read them off here.

  1. The court will determine whether the physical, psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal custody or physical custody.
  2. The ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interests.
  3. Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent.
  4. Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce.
  5. The geographical proximity of the homes of the parents.
  6. The preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age in capacity to reason and form an intelligent preference of the joint legal or physical custody.
  7. The maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflicts that may rise between the parents.
  8. The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly and,
  9. Any history of or potential for child abuse, spousal abuse or kidnapping, or malicious intent, any factors that the court finds relevant.

The bottom line is always the child’s best interest and number Ten leaves a lot of wiggle room for the court to look in to other factors that impact the child’s best interest.

The Process of Determination of Child Custody Employed by Courts in Utah

Interviewer: How does the court make these determinations, are experts utilized, do they have counselors or social workers that meet with the parents and the child during this process?

Danielle Hawkes: Yes absolutely. It depends on how complicated the case is and basically how much money is available. The most basic cases usually just go off of the parties testimony. They each say what’s going on and tell the court what’s going on and who is the primary care taker, who is taking the kids to school, what is actually happening. Then we can branch off from there and get letters and declarations from family members and teachers and other folks, other witnesses who might have information about what’s going on. From there we get a little more technical, and we can involve what we call custody evaluators.

A Custody Evaluator is a Psychologically Trained Professional who Can be Very Expensive

A custody evaluator can actually be very expensive, but they can be very helpful because they are some sort of psychologically trained professionals, whether it be a social worker or a lot of times, we prefer to use PHDs because they are very good writers and they can do evaluations on people. They can do psychological testing on both parents. They’ll visit each of the homes, they’ll interview people who interact with the child regularly and they really do a very in depth evaluation and then they’ll make recommendations to the court and then we can also do a lot of different things.

The Child’s Parents or Therapists Can Make a Recommendation Regarding the Best Interests of the Child

We can ask for the child’s therapist to give a recommendation, we can ask the parents if they know about the child’s welfare to give a recommendation so we have a really wide box of options. When it comes down to it, the court wants the parents to come to an agreement. The court wants the parents, they are the parents of the child, out of all of the people who they have lived with, the parents know the situation the best and the court really does let the parents to decide what they want to happen with their child and then the court will sign off on that. It has to come down, the parents absolutely cannot decide even after all of this evidence is presented and shown. Then the court will finally make a decision.

General Child Custody Information

Common Issues

Useful Tips

Legal Practice Areas

Read More