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Common Misconceptions Regarding Child Custody Cases In Utah

Interviewer: What are some of the more common misconceptions that people have about child custody and some of the things that you have to dispel when they come and talk to you?

Danielle Hawkes: I think the hard thing in these cases is to help a client understand that both parents really have a fundamental right to be in their child’s life and to play a meaningful role and the state, the judge, is going to want that to happen so when you have two parents fighting to be in a child’s life, it really will look down on the parent who seems to be needlessly getting in the way of that. Children really do, aside from the parents’ rights, the children really have a fundamental right to their parents and to be parented by both parents whenever that’s possible.

The Best Interests of the Child Must be Balanced with the Child’s Safety and Well-Being

That always of course needs to be balanced with the child’s safety. A lot of times we have a parent saying that they are doing things in the best interest of the child when really there is side issues that they’re not mentioning that really need to be developed and we have an opposing party that’s pushing those under the rug. We really need to develop those for the court so the court can see that in fact they are not, they are hazy in a way that is in the children’s best interest. There is really a balancing act there.

For Clients Who Are Willing to Cooperate During a Divorce, Mediation is an Unnecessary Expenditure

Interviewer: Initially they are going to have to go to, this is one of the things that they will have to discuss during mediation. Right?

Danielle Hawkes: We can do it without mediation. For clients who are definitely on the same page, we don’t need to go to mediation. We can save a whole bunch of money by just figuring it out. I can figure it out with the opposing council, we can work together and we don’t even need mediation. For clients, if I have a client on the other side or an opposing party on the other side, or an opposing counsel on the other side, that’s really not working very well without mediation, then yes, the next step is mediation and then where mediation is not working, then we need to get the courts involved and we can get the court to make a temporary decision, before or after mediation. It is called a motion for temporary orders and we can ask the court to do temporary orders at any point in the case.

The Most Basic Temporary Orders that are Issued Deal With Child Custody and the Schedule of Visitation

Interviewer: So what are some examples of temporary orders if they may impose or mandate?

Danielle Hawkes: The most basic temporary orders are, while this case is going forward, who has custody of the kids, what does the visitation schedule look like? The court can help figure those things out. The court will also help figure out who’s going to live in the house while the case is going forward. The court is not going to say who gets the house till the very end, the court is not making any permanent decision at that point. They’re just saying as the case goes forward, so and so will live in the house. The children will live in the house or the children will live over here.

The Rules Regarding Visitation Vary from Case to Case Depending Upon Circumstances

The visitation is going to look like this, here are the rules that the parties are going to abide by during visitation. Some cases don’t need very many rules, some cases need a lot of rules and some cases need some drug screening, drug and alcohol screening. Some cases need supervised visitation and we’ll get into that later but the court can make temporary orders based on anything. One of the things the court wants to see is for everything that doesn’t need to change to just stay the same, maintain the status quo until the case gets figured out. So that means the court wouldn’t want to see any parties selling off assets or spending a whole lot of money or putting a bunch of things on a credit card.

The Court Basically Wants both the Parties to Maintain Status Quo Until the Divorce is Finalized

Really the court wants the parties to maintain the status quo until the case is finalized and in some situations where a party does, let’s say they put a whole bunch of money on a credit card, they may be responsible for that whole amount in the end because the court, during this temporary period, everyone needs to sort of cool off and stay still.