Will Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody in Utah?

Will Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody in Utah

When two parents divorce, there are a number of decisions they must make. These include dividing their assets, setting up spousal support and deciding with whom their children will live. This is common from what I’ve seen as a Child Custody Lawyer. In the best situations, parents will mutually agree to a child custody arrangement that is in the best interest of their children. However, occasionally one will believe the other is unfit to parent and should not have custody of their children. This is particularly common in situations involving domestic violence.

Under Utah law, when parents cannot agree to an arrangement on child custody, they will petition the court for assistance in deciding. Courts endeavor to serve the best interests of a child and take a variety of factors into consideration to determine what is best for the child. These factors include the parents’ respective willingness to offer support and care, the child’s relationship with each of the parents and the parents’ fitness as parents. This last category can be severely affected by a parent’s history of domestic violence.

Utah takes allegations of domestic violence very seriously. In fact, the state has a statute that requires courts to consider the effects of it when making custody determinations. Even if a child was not abused or the domestic violence occurred only once, it can strongly reflect on a parent’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child. If a court believes the parent has a propensity for abuse, that parent may not obtain full or partial custody of the child.

Uncontested Divorce in Utah: First Look

When a marriage dissolves, there are a number of situations that may arise. Occasionally, both spouses will not both agree to the divorce or on some aspect of the divorce, such as property division. In those cases, the case would proceed as a contested divorce. Alternatively, sometimes both parties will agree on all terms of the divorce. Under those circumstances, there is no need for the parties to have a trial, as the divorce is uncontested.

Uncontested divorces are much less expensive, time-consuming and stressful. Divorce trials often require couples to share private and sometimes embarrassing details of their marriage in a public forum. Rather than coming to an agreement about the terms of the divorce, the couple leaves these decisions to a judge who does not know them and can often make an imprecise determination as to what is in the best interest of the couple and any children they may have.

To qualify for an uncontested divorce, a couple must reach a number of agreements. They must agree to the ground of the divorce, the division of assets and debts, custody of any child, as well as alimony and support payments.

An uncontested divorce does not mean that the spouses will not have attorneys, though they are not required to. Many hire attorneys to help them advocate for their rights and assist in the process. Experienced attorneys are skilled in negotiating the terms of a divorce, including property division, alimony, child support and custody. When divorcing spouses hire attorneys for these negotiations, they are often more quickly able to reach an agreement and can avoid landing in court for a divorce trial.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you have domestic violence issues that need to be brought up in your case, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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Do I Need a Family Lawyer to get Divorced?

Do I Need a Family Lawyer to get Divorced

Divorce law falls under the umbrella of family law. Very few people are able to effectuate a divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, as this is rarely possible or practical. The best way to protect your rights and your relationship with your children is to seek out the assistance of an attorney who handles family law on a daily basis. An experienced lawyer knows the ins and outs of the process, and can explain each step of the way to you while fighting to protect your interests.

Getting a divorce is more than signing a piece of paper that splits you from your spouse. You may think that there are no bones of contention between you and your spouse, but what often occurs as you move toward final separation is extreme emotion takes over and causes a serious roadblock. Certainly, parties who have legal representation meet these roadblocks too. But the difference is that a skilled divorce attorney knows how to defuse many of these situations and can guide you on which battles are best fought and how to fight them. The right family law attorney will handle your divorce with the proper mix of compassion and aggression in a cost-effective manner.

In the process of your divorce, you can expect to deal with the following issues:

  • Spousal support
  • Division of property and debt
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Visitation
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Postnuptial agreements

How Does the Child’s Preference Affect Custody Proceedings?

When parents divorce, asking children to choose which parent they want to live with can be traumatic for all involved. In some cases, however, children are sufficiently mature to express a reasoned preference. In such cases, the child’s preference can be an important factor in shaping the custody arrangement.

Utah courts determine child custody based on a number of factors intended to protect the interests of the child. A child’s preference is not binding on the court, but judges have discretion to consider it. They often give it significant weight if the child can articulate cogent reasons for the choice. Issues to consider when a child expresses a custody preference include:

  • The older a child is, the more likely a judge is to give weight to the child’s opinion. The judge, however, is likely to independently assess the child’s maturity, regardless of age.
  • Judges are vigilant for signs that a parent has tried to influence the child’s preference. Coached testimony from the child will not only be disregarded, but also may work against the parent who pressured the child.
  • Judges are not required to accept a child’s preference, even if the child is mature. In fact, giving undue weight to a child’s preference in custody proceedings can be grounds for reversal on appeal.

Temporary Spousal Support During Your Divorce

While you are going through a divorce in Utah, temporary maintenance may be awarded to ensure that a lower earning spouse has an adequate standard of living during the time it takes to finalize the dissolution of the marriage. Sometimes, as a divorce lawyer, I see people don’t even think about this. Temporary maintenance (also called spousal support or alimony) is the term used in many states, but the law uses different terms such as temporary alimony or temporary spousal support.

In Utah, the law provides a formula for assessing the amount of temporary maintenance to be paid. By law, temporary maintenance is mandatory when the income of one spouse is two-thirds or less than the income of the other spouse. Temporary maintenance guidelines only apply when this requirement is met.

If the formula kicks in, the higher earning spouse will be expected to pay temporary maintenance. There is a maximum cap for utilizing the formula on the income of the payor.

Under the guidelines, to determine an appropriate amount of temporary maintenance, the court selects the lesser figure that is arrived at by the following calculations:

  • 30 percent of the income of the higher earning payor minus 20 percent of the income of the lower earning spouse
  • 40 percent of the combined income of both spouses. The income of the lower earning spouse is subtracted from this figure.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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What Rights to Custody Do Step Parents Have?

What Rights to Custody Do Step Parents Have

Although it is possible for stepparents to request custody or visitation of a children who are not biologically theirs, it can be a challenging process. As a family lawyer, I’ve seen some things that may help. There are some ways in which the law treats stepparents similarly to natural parents, as a step parent has likely played a significant role in the child’s life. In other situations, however, the natural parent’s rights will take precedent.

One of the major issues in a stepparent achieving custody or visitation rights is the idea of “standing,” or that parent’s right to even have his or her case heard in court. In a situation involving stepparents, there are several factors that come into play:

  • How involved that stepparent has been in the child’s life
  • How long the stepparent participated as an actual parent in the child’s life in place of a natural parent
  • The existence and strength of the relationship between a stepparent and child
  • How much financial support the step parent provides to the child
  • Whether there could be a detriment to the child if the stepparent is denied custody or visitation

Stepparents are, in general, more likely to receive visitation than actual custody. Approximately half of the states in the nation have laws that authorize stepparent visitation, with additional states having processes in place to allow them to petition for it. Utah allows for stepparents to petition for these rights.

The lack of a blood relationship, however, is a significant barrier to overcome when seeking custody rights. Natural parents must be clearly unfit for custody if a court is to place the children in another home.

Can a Veteran’s Spouse Claim VA Benefits During Divorce?

Although wives and husbands of military personnel typically lose benefits when they dissolve their marriage to a service member, federal law does provide certain protections for former military spouses. Depending on the length of your marriage to a service member, you may retain these rights:

  • Access to the commissary and post exchange — If you were married for at least 20 years to a service member with at least 20 years of service credited toward retirement, you are entitled to use the commissary and PX. You may retain these privileges until you remarry.
  • Retirement pay — For an ex-spouse to qualify for a share in a service member’s retirement pay, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years and for at least 10 years of the member’s service time. State equitable distribution laws decide how much of the retirement pay the ex-spouse receives. Retirement pay continues until the service member dies.
  • Healthcare — Ex-spouses of retired or active-duty service members may continue their health insurance coverage under the Department of Defense’s TRICARE system as long as they don’t remarry or enroll in an employer’s group healthcare plan. However, the spouse’s sponsor (the ex-spouse service member) must have at least 20 years of service and the couple must have been married for at least 20 years of the credited service.
  • Survivor benefit — The service member may elect, within two years of the divorce, to leave a survivor benefit to an ex-spouse. This is a monthly payment that begins upon the death of the service member, and it can relieve financial hardships that come with the termination of retirement pay.

Free Initial Consultation with a Lawyer in Utah

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

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