Child Custody in St. George Utah

Dealing with the dissolution of marriage is already painful as it is.  But divorce gets complicated when children are involved. The child custody law allows parents and guardians to work out the right kind of arrangement for the care of their children. Take note that physical and legal custody isn’t always integrated. It’s important to know the distinction and other pertinent points in the family code going into custody mediation.  For this, you need the legal services of a Utah child custody lawyer

A child custody case can get complicated, however. There are instances when the parents are unmarried, or paternity is being questioned. For complex cases or considerable hostility between the parties, a mediator may not be enough, and the custody dispute has to be brought to court. Nonetheless, child custody cases are decided with the interests of the child prioritized.

In granting custody of a child in Utah, the family court has five main options regarding what kind of child custody to award. If you’re divorcing or if there has been an upheaval in your family setup, compelling you to delve into custody laws and come up with a new arrangement for the care and upbringing of your minor children, the following are the types of parent time or visitations you can choose from:

  • Statutory Minimums
  • Alternative Minimum Parent Time
  • Joint Parent Time
  • Week-on, Week-off (7/7)
  • Mediation Setting

Ready on about Utah’s custody options or, better yet, talk to a St. George custody lawyer today.

Statutory Minimums

The parenting time schedule for children aged 5-18 years old is based on Utah family codes 30-3-35 and 35.5. Utah courts presume that there is more stability and consistency for children if there is sole custody. Utah Code 30-3-35 provides a visitation schedule for children aged 5-18 years old, typically instituted when parents cannot agree on appropriate visitation between themselves. In this option,  the noncustodial parent gets parenting time on a weekday,  usually from 5:30 pm, when the kids get off from school or after the parent’s work hours, and the visit lasts until 8:30 pm, depending on the preference and availability of the noncustodial parent. The non-custodial parents get to be with the children from Friday after school until Sunday evening for weekend parenting time. Such arrangement is every other weekend. This is the minimum parent time.

Alternative Minimum Parent Time

A few years ago, Utah lawmakers came up with the alternative minimum parent-time found in Utah code 30-3-35.1. The schedule calls for 145 overnights that usually happen in midweek. If no day is specified, weekday parent-time shall be on Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. until the following day when delivering the child to school, or until 8 a.m., if there is no school the following day. Most people pick Thursday, after school hours, or when the parent gets off from work until the next morning when the parent drops off the child at school. The reason being is every other weekend, and you would get Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. So, what that looks like is this: one week, you pick the kids up on Thursday, drop them off Friday morning. The next week you pick the kids up on Thursday, drop them off Monday morning at school, or return them home on Monday morning, whatever the case may be. 

Joint Parent Time or 50/50  

The third option available under a new law passed by the Utah State Legislature this year is the joint parent time or 50/50 custody option as stipulated in the Utah family code. One parent will always get Monday and Tuesday. The other parent is going to get Wednesday and Thursday. This parenting schedule allows the children to spend an equal amount of time with both parents during the week and on weekends. The parents will alternate weekends Friday-Sunday. To illustrate,  this is typically how it will go: 

Schedule Monday      Tuesday       Wednesday     Thursday     Friday      Saturday      Sunday     
Week One       Father Father Mother Mother Father Father Father
Week Two   Father Father Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother

Because the weekend time alternates from week to week, the child would spend 50% of the time with both parents. This parenting schedule allows the children to spend an equal amount of time with both parents during the week and on weekends. It also affords the children to spend a longer block of time with each parent with only a few transitions between homes throughout the month. This 50 50 child custody arrangement is more often seen when the children are a little bit older and can go without seeing either parent for five consecutive days.

Week-on, Week-off (7/7)

Another option that splits parenting time 50/50 is a week-on, week-off schedule. This parenting plan is where the child spends one week (7 days) with Parent A in Week One and one week (7 days) with Parent B in Week Two. This schedule is quite common and is more often seen when the children are older and can go without seeing either parent for seven consecutive days. And we will typically use Sunday evening or Monday morning school as the exchange point.

Mediation Setting 

If any of the previous options do not work for you and the other parent, you can make up your parenting plan in a mediation setting.  Judges in family court usually pick one of the first three: statutory minimum, alternative minimum, or the 50/50 parent-time arrangement. 

In all these cases, parents usually agree to share time with their children over the summer break. The summer holiday is usually the longest break during a school year. School breaks are often 5-8 weeks or 2-3 months between May and September. During the summer break, parents can alternate weeks, alternate every two weeks, or continue with the regular schedule and add larger blocks of time for a vacation period with each parent. The same arrangement applies on holidays. A common holiday schedule is where one parent has the child in an even number of years, and the other parent has the child in odd-numbered years for a particular holiday. Parents may split some holidays such as Winter Break or Christmas Break, or Spring Break may be split in half each year or alternate years between parents. This depends on the family and what works best for the children and family dynamic.

Relocation Statute

The first five options are applicable for when the custodial and non-custodial parents live close to each other. It is not unusual for one parent to move out of the state of Utah or 150 miles away after a divorce or custody order. Joint custody or other similar arrangements may not be feasible.  As such,  the sixth option,  the relocation statute, will apply, which provides that one of the parents will become the sole physical custodian if that is not already the case and the relocating parent must provide written notice to the parent at least 60 days before relocation.  

In such cases, the non-custodial parent will get a 50/50 division of the big holidays, such as Fall Break, Thanksgiving break, the Christmas holiday break, spring break of a school year, and then half of the summertime.

As is usually the case in child custody cases, the court will use the best interests of the child test that they use in family law matters involving children. The judge may not be as interested in the benefits that the move will have for the parent.

If you are in the midst of a custody case or are still working out your parenting plan,  our experienced St. George child custody lawyers at Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions can help you. Call us now for a consultation. 

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