Grandparents’ Rights in Utah

For many Utah grandparents, there is no love like a grandparent’s love for a grandchild. Many grandparents we know describe the experience of spending time with their grandchildren as even better than parenting. Studies have shown that having a relationship with grandparents can have a positive effect on children. Unfortunately for many grandparents, issues with their adult children can get in the way of them spending time with their grandchildren. If their children break up or divorce, they may lose their ability to see their grandchildren. Can grandparents have visitation rights under Utah law?


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November 16, 2021

How to Avoid Holiday Custody Fights

The holiday season is a time for families and friends to celebrate and create new memories. But for divorced or separated couples, it can also be a time of stress and conflict, putting families are in the midst of a holiday child custody battle. Coordinating the time that children will spend with each parent (and grandparents) for each of the upcoming major holidays can be difficult. The best way to limit confusion and hurt feelings is to set up a Utah child custody holiday calendar – in advance!

Before the holiday season arrives, be aware of what the final decree in your divorce or temporary order pending divorce states about visitation rights. This schedule will have precedence over any other decisions made about holiday custody or visitation rights. If you have not already listed Holiday season schedules, here are some tips on sharing custody during the holidays.

3 Holiday Child Custody Battle Tips

Have a Holiday Child Custody Agreement

Often there is already a child custody agreement in effect for holidays in addition to time spent with each parent during the school year and during summer vacations. Many divorced couples will detail a separate child custody agreement that is specific to all the major holidays. The divorced couple may choose to alternate certain holidays each year – with each choosing a major summer and winter holiday. For example, one may choose the Fourth of July and Christmas one year, while the other may opt for Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

The agreement should be written out, similar to a legal document and if possible, there should be a clause included for changes. Things will come up in life, and often it may in the best interests of the children to change the schedule – swapping out one holiday for another.

A Fixed Holiday Schedule

A great way to create lasting memories each and every year is to agree on a fixed holiday schedule, where the children will spend certain holidays each year with each parent. This way, plans can be made to include grandparents and holiday trips out of town. The best reason for a fixed child custody holiday schedule Utah is for the purpose of having established holiday traditions within the family.

“Holiday traditions become an essential aspect of how we celebrate, and there is a reason why we keep them as a part of our lives for so long. Simply put we hold onto holiday traditions because they add meaning to our celebrations, and help bond us to those we love.”

Celebrate the Holidays Twice

For some families, it may make sense to celebrate the holiday with both parents. A double Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas celebration can be easily established when both parents live in close vicinity to each other. Since Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’ holidays are long weekends or vacation time is usually added to the holiday, the children can stay with one parent until the eve of the holiday and be with the other parent on the day of celebration.

To celebrate the holidays twice, you may want to consider the age of your family. For younger children this may be a bit too much excitement in such a short time frame, but for older children – they would likely enjoy the double holiday concept.

If you need help navigating through holiday parent time, please contact our office

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Read Law

October 25, 2021

How to Change Jurisdiction for Child Custody

Child custody cases can be some of the most contentious and challenging issues related to a divorce. In family law and divorce cases involving children, Utah courts must decide whether they have jurisdiction to decide on the child custody matter before them. Jurisdiction is the legal authority of a court to decide on a particular child custody case. Typically jurisdiction is in the child’s home state or in any state where the child has resided for six months before the parent files the child custody action. In most family law cases, including in child custody matters, jurisdiction is not a significant issue. Most of the time, both parents and all of the children live in the same state. (more…)

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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 18, 2021

How a Judge Decides Which Parent Will Be Awarded Child Custody

In Utah, mediation is a requirement in divorce and custody matters. The judge does not want to be the one to decide who should have custody of your children. She does not likely know you, your children, or your circumstances. It is ideal if parents can step back, look at what is best for their children and family, and sort out custody details on their own. Therefore, mediation is mandatory before a custody matter can go to trial. It is a great tool. However, custody matters still go to trial and judges are forced to ultimately decide the who, what, when, where of your children’s lives.

The courts are required to determine custody and parent-time based on what serves the best interests of the child. Even when parties are able to come to an agreement on custody and parent-time, the agreement must serve the best interests of the child or the courts will step in and make changes.

The Utah State Legislature provides the courts with a list of factors to consider, but the judge has discretion, which means that she can also consider anything else that might be relevant in your case. (For custody factors see Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-10) (For parent-time factors see Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-34). Of course, evidence of things like sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse of the child, parent, or someone else in the household, will be a consideration in determining custody and parent-time. Custody factors include:
Stability. Consistency and stability are very important. The court will do its best not to disrupt the child’s life and lifestyle. Keeping children in their same school, neighborhood, near friends and community support systems could be beneficial.
Ability to co-parent. If things are going well with the child in the current circumstances, judges may not want to disrupt things. Consideration will be given to the parent who has the ability to abide by the parenting plan when making child custody decisions. Importantly, has one parent shown that they are more likely to encourage and facilitate a relationship between the child and their other parent? Something else considered, is whether a parent will be personally caring for the child versus requiring day care.

Mental and Physical well-being of the parent. Do either of the parents suffer from mental health or substance abuse issues? If so, the court may consider whether such condition will affect his or her ability to parent. If this element is an issue, an expert may be needed to provide an opinion. Untreated physical health problems can impact a parent’s ability to care for a child on their own.

Parent/Child Relationship. Which parent has been the primary caretaker of the child, and why? The court may pay close attention to the quality and depth of the relationship between the child and each parent. The court might also consider the religious compatibility of the child with each parent or even the child’s interaction and relationship with stepparents and other extended family members.

Siblings. The court will do what they can to keep siblings together. This goes back to maintaining stability. When parents wish to separate siblings in a custody agreement, they must present a strong case, clearly establishing why separating the children is in their best interests.

Many people believe that once their child is fourteen years old, they get to decide who they want to live with. This is not necessarily true. While the statute states that the court can ask a child what their desires are regarding custody and consider them, and even more weight is given to a child who is fourteen or older, neither party can require a child to testify. The court can inquire, but it is uncommon, and certainly frowned upon (at best) when one of the parties tries to use their child as a witness. The court will always make their determination based on what the judge feels is in the child’s best interest.

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Read & Read

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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February 16, 2021

When should I start estate planning?

Although estate planning is often portrayed as something to do as you near retirement. The truth is, it is never too soon to have an estate plan in place.

While planning for the unthinkable is not how many of us prefer to spend our time. It is essential, especially if you have young children. (more…)

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October 19, 2020

What is the difference between sole vs. joint custody?

Now that you know the difference between legal and physical custody, you might be wondering. “What is the difference between sole vs. joint custody?”

Not unlike understanding the difference between legal and physical, the difference between sole vs. joint custody is a common question. (more…)

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October 14, 2020

What is physical vs. legal custody?

If you are asking yourself, “What is physical vs. legal custody?” You’re not alone. In our experience, it is rare to have a client already well versed with the Utah courts definition custody. (more…)

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