If you need a family attorney in Salt Lake City Utah, you’ve reached the right page. Often referred to as the “Crossroads of the West,” Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah and the state’s most populous city, has also become a hub for business. Appearing on list after list of top-performing cities in the US, Salt Lake City’s economy is remarkably stable, thanks to both its forward-thinking, business-friendly policies and homegrown capital investment. Additionally, its population has become increasingly diverse. Since 2010, migration from other countries has accounted for 41 percent of Utah’s inbound growth. Additionally, Utah ranks second in the nation in its citizens’ support for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, according to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Salt Lake City ranks among the top US states for business and personal income growth, family prosperity and quality of life. According to the most recent Hachman Index, Utah leads the nation in economic diversity and Forbes has listed Utah as the “top state for business” five times in the past ten years.
The attorneys in Salt Lake City offer a broad mix of legal services to a wide range of clients, including individuals, public and private companies, and educational and charitable organizations. These attorneys have handled complex business and finance transactions, banking-related matters and commercial litigation, as well as intellectual property, bankruptcy, real estate, tax, estate planning, employment, family law, and immigration matters, among other areas.
Salt Lake City-based lawyers have been recognized in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business and Chambers High Net worth Guide, honored as “Lawyers of the Year” in The Best Lawyers in America, named to the Mountain States Super Lawyers list and included in Utah Business’s Legal Elite.
Just about anyone can start a family on their own, but certain procedures affecting the responsibilities of family life must be pursued in court. While matters of the heart are very personal, the rights of same-sex couples to get married, laws regarding divorce, and the process of adopting a child are governed by state and federal laws.
“Family law,” therefore, refers to rules, regulations, and court procedures involving the family unit. While some family law matters may be handled without counsel, processes such as divorce and child custody often require the skill and expertise of a skilled attorney.
Much of our lives unfold within the family unit, often behind closed doors. And while our family lives are considered personal in many aspects, there is a whole body of law addressing certain laws and procedures affecting families, such as marriage, divorce, and even certain criminal statutes.
What Does A Family Law Attorney Do?
A family law attorney generally handles matters that involve the family court system, including family-related issues and domestic relationships. Some of the common practice areas family lawyers handle include:
Marital property division
Child custody cases
Alimony or spousal support
Family attorneys may work in many capacities, including as a private lawyer in a small family law firm, a family law lawyer in a big firm, for county or state government agencies, in nonprofit organizations, or as a state attorney. Attorneys act as advocates for their clients, which may include representing the interests of a minor child in child abuse or juvenile dependency hearings.
Do Family Law Attorneys Handle Divorce?
Yes. A large part of family law practice involves divorce. Divorce can be a difficult process, especially when the couple is in dispute over how to handle the separation. A contested divorce can get complicated when emotions are involved, often involving money problems or infidelity. Divorce is a major life-changing event and it can be difficult to navigate on your own.
In general, a divorce attorney can only represent one spouse in a divorce. There is a conflict of interest in trying to represent both spouses. When you find a family law attorney, your attorney will act as an advocate for you and advise you in your best interests.
In an uncontested divorce, a family law attorney can help their client prepare the divorce order, with all the issues settled between the couple, including division of property and child custody and visitation. In an uncontested divorce, there is nothing left for the court to decide and the court may issue the final divorce court order after making sure the couple has met all the statutory requirements to legally end the marriage.
In a contested divorce, there may be a dispute over many issues, including property, alimony, and child custody. If the couple cannot settle these issues through negotiations or mediation, it may be left up to the family court judge to decide how to settle the disputes. Contested divorces can take longer and be more expensive for each spouse.
Do You Need A Family Law Attorney?
Yes, you do. Some family law issues can be handled without an attorney, including simple court filings like name changes. However, when there are important issues at stake, it may be best to find an experienced attorney for legal advice. A divorce may involve dividing up a lot of money, property, and assets. Lack of legal representation may expose you to losing out on what you deserve after a separation.
The most important issue for many separating couples is visitation and child custody issues. If there are disputes in child custody, a family lawyer can help make sure your child will be safe and properly provided for. This includes granting custody with the custodial parent, working out a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of your child, and getting the financial support necessary to care for your child.
Utah Child Custody Laws
When a couple with children breaks up, the responsibility to care for the children must be shared by both parents. An important aspect is child custody or with whom the child will live with and what visitation with the other parent will be like. Another part of this responsibility is financial support, in the form of child support.
Best Interest of the Child
Utah family courts, like those in most states, determine child custody matters using the “best interests of the child.” The factors considered by the judge include:
Past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of the parties
Parent most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing child frequent contact with non-custodial parent
Bonding between each parent and the child
If a parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or other harmful sexual-related materials
Physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the child
Both parent’s ability to reach shared decisions for the child and prioritize the child’s welfare
If both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce
The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes
The child’s preferences
Parents ability to protect child from their conflict
Past and present ability to cooperate with each other in parenting and making decisions
Any history of child abuse, domestic violence, or kidnapping
Any other relevant factors
When parents can’t develop their own parenting schedule, the court can establish an appropriate schedule more or less than the statutory minimum parent-time based on the following best interest of the child factors:
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
How parent-time would negatively impact child’s physical health and emotional development
Distance between child’s home and the non-custodial parent’s home
Allegations of child abuse
Lack of demonstrated parenting skills when there’s no safeguards to ensure child’s safety
Financial inability of non-custodial parent to provide food and shelter during parent-time
Child’s preference, if sufficiently mature
Shared interests of the child and non-custodial parent
Non-custodial parent’s involvement in the child’s school, community, religious, or other related activities
Non-custodial parent’s availability to care for the child when the custodial parent is working or has other obligations
Chronic pattern of missing, canceling or denying regularly scheduled parenting time
Parent-time schedule of siblings
Lack of reasonable alternatives for nursing child
Any other criteria the court feels is relevant to the best interests of the child
Sometimes, a marriage or relationship ends badly. If children are involved, however, the former spouses must still communicate and cooperate to some degree, but child custody arrangements don’t always go according to plan. Custodial interference by a parent is one of the major problems that may arise after divorce or breakup, or in some non-divorce situations involving children.
What Legal Remedies are Available if a Parent Abducts a Child?
Sometimes in child custody disputes, feelings of anger or desperation lead a parent to run away with the children, in violation of a child custody order. Under both state and federal law, it is illegal to remove a child from his/her custodial parent or legal guardian. Under California’s penal code, for example, child abduction is considered a crime against the custodial parent.
Interstate Child Abduction
In a situation of parental kidnapping – yes, a parent can be charged with kidnapping their own child – law enforcement is often the best remedy available. Parents are also free to hire their own private investigator.
States have their own kidnapping laws, which may cover parental child abduction. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act into law, establishing the AMBER Alert system. Every state participates in the AMBER Alert system. It notifies law enforcement and the public when a child has been abducted.
To use the AMBER Alert system, the child must be 17 or younger and there must be a serious risk to the child of injury or death. Not every parental abduction case would qualify.
Legislatively, there are a number of federal laws that deter parental abduction of children. Before the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) of 1968, parents could simply take their child to another state if they thought they had a better chance of getting custody in court. The UCCJA provides an interstate solution to remove that legal incentive for parental child abduction.
In 1980, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (28 U.S.C. § 1738A) was passed to resolve jurisdictional conflicts in child custody cases. The PKPA promotes cooperation between states to make it easier to secure the return of abducted children.
PKPA is a federal law, so it trumps state law when there is a conflict between states. The Act tells state courts that they must enforce the child custody determination pending or already in place in the child’s home state/tribal court. The home state court has “preferred jurisdiction.”
The child’s home state is where the child lived for at least 6 months before a custody action was filed. That state court retains jurisdiction of the child custody case as long as at least one parent or the child lives there. That court can order the return of the child to the custodial parent.
If the child did not have a home state, a court in a state where the child and at least one parent have a significant connection can take jurisdiction. If a child is in danger or has been abandoned, the local court may take emergency jurisdiction. If a parent fleeing domestic violence has taken the children across state lines that would trigger emergency jurisdiction in the receiving state. If no court has jurisdiction, the nearest court can take jurisdiction as “the most appropriate forum.”
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has been adopted by 49 states. It ensures interstate enforceability of child custody orders. It resolved conflicts between the PKPA and the UCCJA. It added protection for domestic violence victims who fled to another state for safe haven.
Parental Child Abduction: International Disputes
The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) made international kidnapping a criminal offense in 1993. A parent cannot remove or attempt to remove a child from the U.S. in order to obstruct another person’s custodial rights. The FBI investigates such cases.
There are two legal remedies that apply to international child abduction cases. The International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. ICARA established procedures to implement the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention works to return the child to their state of residence if they have been wrongly removed. It doesn’t settle child custody disputes. It seeks to return the situation to the status quo before the child abduction occurred.
If the parent had fled to a country that has not agreed to cooperate with the U.S. as part of an international treaty, a combination of legal and political pressure can be applied. A parent can petition a U.S. court to initiate judicial proceedings under the Convention for the return of their child. Outside of those countries, legal remedies vary greatly. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs can provide certain limited resources.
Every case of child abduction case is a violation of a child custody order. The penalties that apply for a violation of a child custody order may also apply here. Penalties include large fines, jail time, loss of custody, or loss of visitation rights.
Once your child is located and returned home, you’ll want to prevent a future recurrence. Parental child abduction is a very serious offense. It will damage the abducting parent’s standing in family law court. If you previously had joint custody, that parent could temporarily or permanently lose their custody rights. Of course, this will vary by state, judge, and family circumstances.
Enforcing Child Custody Orders
In Salt Lake City, Utah family law courts determine how much child support a non-custodial parent (a parent who doesn’t live with their minor child) is required to pay by using the state’s child support guidelines. These guidelines take into consideration both parents’ gross incomes and the number of children that they have together.
The court will follow the child support guidelines unless there is substantial evidence to rebut the guidelines. In order to determine whether or not to deviate from the guidelines the court will consider:
The standard of living of the parents
The relative wealth and income of the parents
The ability of the non-custodial parent to earn
The ability of the custodial parent to earn
The ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn, or other benefits received by an adult child
The needs of the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent, and the child
The ages of the parties, and
The responsibilities of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent for the support of others
In Salt Lake City, if a parent is unemployed or underemployed the court may impute an income on the parent in order to perform the child support calculations in the chart above. Imputed income is based on employment potential and probable earnings. This figure is calculated from employment opportunities, work history, occupation qualifications, and prevailing earnings for people of similar backgrounds in the community.
If a parent doesn’t have recent work history, or if their occupation is unknown, then the court can impute income on the parent at the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek. However, income can’t be imputed if any of the following conditions exist (and aren’t temporary in nature):
The reasonable costs of child care for the parents’ minor children equals the amount of income that the custodial parent can earn
A parent is physically or mentally unable to earn the minimum wage, or
The unusual emotional or physical needs of a child requires the custodial parent to stay home and care for them
Utah Child Abuse Laws
Criminal statutes are in place to keep people safe. Utah’s child abuse laws are designed to protect children from harm by prohibiting the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children. These child abuse statutes assist in prosecuting child abusers and mandate certain third parties and professionals with access to children to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse to the authorities. Utah’s Department of Child and Family Services also provides resources statewide to protect the welfare of children.
All of us want to make sure children are safe from harm, but many of us may not realize just how prevalent child abuse is in the United States. There are over 3 million reports of child abuse each year, involving almost 6 million children, and between four and five children are killed by child abuse or neglect every day. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, there are state child abuse resources available that can help.
Free Initial Consultation For Family Law
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!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506