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September 23, 2021

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The effects of domestic violence are far-reaching and can leave visible and invisible scars for years to come. A parent’s past record of abuse, also called “domestic violence,” may significantly alter the outcome of a child custody case. In cases of chronic abuse, a parent may have limitations placed upon his or her visitation rights, or in the most extreme situations, the abusive parent may lose his or her parental rights entirely.

Basics of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence ranges from physical and sexual abuse to emotional abuse and its resulting internal wounds. In Utah, domestic violence is actual harm or threats to harm made by a cohabitant or family member. Utah law defines “harm” as hitting, kicking, pushing, stalking, harassing, kidnapping, sexual assault, restricting movement, or breaking or throwing things to intimidate.

Protective orders

In situations where domestic violence is ongoing or there is a fear of future abuse, a protective order may be appropriate. Utah’s court website provides protective order forms and basic information about obtaining a protective order. In order to obtain a protective order, you must show that you have been harmed or threatened by one of the following categories of individuals:

  • current or former spouse (including spouse by common law marriage)
  • person who resides or formerly resided at your same residence
  • person who shares a child or unborn child with you, or
  • person related by blood or marriage.

If a judge determines that domestic violence has occurred in your case and is likely to occur in the future without court intervention, your protective order will be granted.

Child Custody Orders in Utah

Central to any custody decision is what sort of living and visitation arrangement best serves the child’s emotional well-being. Utah recognizes two types of custody: legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical custody (where the child resides).

While Utah courts prefer joint or shared custody situations, a history of domestic violence could serve as justification for a judge to deviate from a joint custody arrangement and limit the abusive parent’s visitation with his or her child. Read more about Child Custody in Utah.

Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Orders in Utah

In determining the best interests of the child, evidence of domestic violence is one of several factors considered and weighed in a custody decision. A single, unreported incident of domestic violence does not automatically mean a parent will lose visitation rights. However, a chronic history of abuse or a parent’s failure to protect his or her children from domestic violence could result in restrictions on custody and visitation or a complete termination of parental rights.

Supervised visitation

Supervised visitation may be required in cases of chronic or recent domestic violence; it requires the presence of another adult at visitation sessions between the child and abusive parent. Although restrictive, a supervised visitation order does not mean that the abusive parent will only ever receive supervised visits with their child. Nevertheless, before the supervised visit requirement can be lifted, the abusive parent must prove to the court that the child would be safe in his or her care and there is no likelihood of ongoing abuse.

Termination of parental rights

When a judge decides to terminate a parent’s custodial rights, including all rights to visit with or otherwise parent his or her child, the decision is permanent and cannot be undone by a parent’s subsequent good behavior. A judge will only terminate parental rights in the most extreme circumstances. Some reasons a Utah court would terminate parental rights include sexual abuse of any child, causing a disabling injury of or disfigurement of the child, murder or attempted murder of any child, and intentionally or recklessly causing the death of the child’s other parent.

If you have additional questions about the effect of domestic violence on custody rights in Utah, contact us today!

 

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August 13, 2021

Back to School-What Co-Parents need to know

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching, with most Utah school districts beginning mid-August. This means that schedules and responsibilities shift, and healthy parent communication is crucial. It is time to step up your co-parenting game! Your children are naturally more anxious when school starts. It is a big adjustment. Avoid adding contentions between parents to your kids’ plates.

For those who share legal custody of their children, contact your child’s school to gain access to the school’s “parent portal”. Parents who share legal custody have the right to access school records and can be equally involved in the child’s education.  It is much easier to have your own accounts. This can help eliminate miscommunication between parents. There’s nothing more frustrating to some parents than when they don’t find out about the school program until that morning or even after the fact. (Both parents should experience the sinking feeling and panic of finding out about mid-day school programs three days before the performance.) 

Reach out to teachers and ask that you are included on correspondence and volunteer opportunities. If joint parent-teacher conferences are not an option, ask to schedule a separate conference. Finally, keep in mind that school staff and administration may not know your circumstances, and will err on the side of safety. If you try to sign your child out of school for any reason, and the school does not have you “on the list” in your child’s record, they may refuse to release your child to you without confirming with the custodial parent. (Trust us when we tell you that this is not an ideal situation for anybody.) To help avoid snags like that, verify with your child’s school that you are included in the records as a legal custodian of your child. They could ask you for a certified copy of your custody orders to show that you are, in fact, a legal custodian. It isn’t a bad idea to acquire a certified copy from the courthouse to have on file. 

We receive several questions this time of year about school fees, after school, school breaks, visitation times, transportation, etc. 

MONEY

Money tends to be a point of contention for parents. So, who pays for what?

Child support is for the purpose of caring for the children. That means if your custody and child support order does not state otherwise, school fees; school lunch; yearbooks; extracurricular activities; class fees; parking passes; school supplies; school clothes; etc. are generally paid by the party receiving child support. If needed, check with your schools about their fee waivers and reduced or free lunch programs.

WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE

Unless you and your co-parent have agreed otherwise, Utah Code § 30-3-35 provides guidelines for the minimum parent-time schedules, including holiday and summer time. 

Parent-time schedules can become confusing during the school year between holidays and those random Fridays, Mondays, and short days that are thrown into the mix. When a school day or snow day falls on the noncustodial parent’s regular mid-week day, they may choose to exercise their parent time with the kids from 9:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., accommodating the custodial parent’s work schedule, and if the noncustodial parent can be with the kids. Similarly, on short days, the noncustodial parent and child may start their weekend as soon as school gets out through 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. If there is a long weekend or holiday (generally teacher planning days), it gives the noncustodial parent and child a longer weekend together. 

Parents don’t always think about holidays that fall on a day when school is in session—Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day. If this is the case, just as the custodial parent would be responsible, the noncustodial parent is responsible for making sure the child gets to school. You can find more detailed information about holiday parent-time schedules, including fall and spring breaks, here.

HOW

Finally, sometimes there are hiccups and frustrations over who will be spending time with the kids and/or transporting the kids to and from school. There are times where one parent may not like an in-law, step-parent, or another adult who is involved in transporting. This has been an issue large enough to justify the Utah legislature and courts to spell it out for us. Utah code provides that a step-parent, grandparent, or other responsible adult that the noncustodial parent has chosen, can pick up the child if the custodial parent knows the identity of the person and the noncustodial parent will be with the child by 7:00 p.m. (Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-35). If there are circumstances you feel might justify otherwise, call one of our attorneys. We are well-seasoned in child custody matters. 

As always, reach out to one of our skilled Utah family law attorneys if you need help with any custody or child support issues. Don’t forget to bookmark this blog, so you can check back for upcoming posts about child custody and what to expect with Halloween and Fall Break parent-time.

 

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April 12, 2021

Co-Parenting: Emergency Preparedness Plan

April 15th is the Great Utah Shakeout. An annual event to help Utahn’s consider and prepare their emergency preparedness plans. When it comes to co-parenting, having an emergency preparedness plan will ensure you and your former spouse know what to do. (more…)

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March 28, 2021

Communicating with co-parenting apps

From school obligations to extra curricular activities, and keeping up with orthodontist appointments. There is a lot to juggle when it comes to managing children’s schedules. Communicating with co-parenting apps can provide a reliable system, and help alleviate miscommunication between two-households. Not to mention, a missed pick-up.

If you and your ex struggle to communicate respectfully then these apps can help on multiple levels. (more…)

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March 21, 2021

How to split stimulus funds for dependents

Are you unsure how to split stimulus funds for dependents?

The news of a $1,400 stimulus for adults and children is providing some relief for many families across the nation. However, in the case of divorce, confusion over how co-parents should split  stimulus funds for dependents is becoming a common point of contention.

(more…)

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February 28, 2021

Co-Parenting Goal: Consistency is key

Hitting co-parenting goals won’t happen overnight. It is something that takes patience and energy, but well worth the time spent in terms of setting your kids up for success. Today’s co-parenting goal is to help you better understand why consistency is key, when it comes to helping your children cope.

Divorce has a tendency to uproot the foundation kids have come to know. When it comes to co-parenting having a sense of consistency with rules and rewards between households provides a constant. (more…)

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October 12, 2020

Co-Parenting Goal: Let Them Love You Without Guilt

Following the guidance of a co-parenting goal is not always easy. However, the anger and frustration you feel toward your ex should not become your children’s burden too. It is essential to let them love you both without guilt. (more…)

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