Effect Of Decree
1. An order for the termination of the parent-child legal relationship divests the child and the parents of all legal rights, powers, immunities, duties, and obligations with respect to each other, except the right of the child to inherit from the parent.
2. An order or decree entered pursuant to this part may not disentitle a child to any benefit due him from any third person, including, but not limited to, any Indian tribe, agency, state, or the United States.
3. Except as provided in Sections 78A-6-1401 through 78A-6-1404 , after the termination of a parent-child legal relationship, the former parent is neither entitled to any notice of proceedings for the adoption of the child nor has any right to object to the adoption or to participate in any other placement proceedings.
When parents separate or divorce, care for the children must continue. If the parents cannot agree on a plan for raising the children, the court will order a plan or decide matters concerning their health and welfare. Often this includes making decisions about how much time the child will spend with each parent and which parent will be the primary caregiver. In some situations, unmarried parents, relatives or other persons also may ask the court for custody or parenting time. In each case, the court’s decision is based on the child’s best interests.
Custody is a legal term referring to the right of a person to make decisions about the care and welfare of a child (for example, decisions about education, health care and religious training). The parent with custody is often called the “custodial parent.” In many cases, the child lives with the custodial parent most of the time. The law does not favor one form of custody over another, nor do they base their decisions on the sex of the parent.
Parenting time (also sometimes called “access,” “contact,” “residential time,” or “visitation”) is a legal term referring to the opportunity for the child to spend time with the parent who does not have sole legal custody. This parent is often called the “non-custodial parent.”
Custody and parenting time problems arise most often when parents ask the court for dissolution of the marriage (divorce) or a legal separation. However, custody problems may also arise between parents who have never been married or who no longer live together. Custody and parenting time problems do not go away after the divorce is final. In these situations, parents sometimes disagree about who makes decisions affecting the child’s health, welfare and education, where the child lives and how much parenting time a non-custodial parent has. Parents may agree between themselves about custody or parenting time; however, if the parents cannot agree and if the Arizona legal system becomes involved (for example, when a parent asks the court for a divorce), only the Superior Court may decide these issues.
This means that one person has sole legal custody of a child. In this situation, the court orders that one parent be responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. Although both parents may discuss these matters, the parent designated by the court has authority to make final decisions in the event the parents do not agree.
This means joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both. In most cases, in order to obtain an order for joint custody, both parents must agree to and submit a written parenting plan to the court.
Legal custody is the status where one or both parents are responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. When legal custody is awarded to one parent, it is called sole legal custody. The law does not favor one form of custody over another.
Joint Legal Custody
When the court grants joint legal custody, each of the parents has the same rights to make decisions about the child’s care and welfare and neither parent’s rights are superior to those of the other parent. In the best interest of the child, the court may direct that certain decisions be made by only one parent, even when joint legal custody is granted. The court may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody.
Joint Physical Custody
When the court grants joint physical custody, the place where the child lives (the child’s physical residence) is shared between the parents in a way that the child will have essentially equal time and contact with both parents. Joint physical custody may be granted in situations where parents share joint legal custody or when one parent is granted sole custody.
Procedure For Getting A Custody Order
The court may grant a custody order only in certain kinds of cases. Most often, custody is determined when the parents are seeking a legal separation or divorce, or when parents are asking the court to change a custody decision that was made in an earlier separation or divorce case. Custody also may be ordered when one parent starts a court case to decide paternity (or maternity) of a child.
When a parent starts a court case for legal separation or divorce and the parents cannot agree about child custody, custody automatically becomes an issue for the court to decide. These court decisions are made in temporary orders hearings and in final trial if the parties are unable to reach agreement. After a decree of legal separation or divorce has been granted, the court still has authority to change (modify) an earlier custody order.
Either parent may request in writing that the court modify a custody order. To change an existing order it must be shown that the best interests of the child are served. The request is filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court and a fee for filing is charged; however, there are limitations on requesting a modification. For example, a request may not be filed for one year from the date of the earlier order, unless there are special circumstances seriously endangering the child’s physical, mental, emotional or moral health.
If a form of joint custody has been ordered, a modification may be requested at any time if there is evidence that domestic violence, spousal abuse or child abuse has occurred since the date the last order was granted. In a joint custody situation, a parent must wait six months before seeking a modification if the reason for the request is that one parent has failed to obey the court’s custody order.
If there is a dispute about custody, the court sometimes refers the parents to internal court mediation services. This process gives the parents an opportunity to reach an agreement regarding custody and related issues; however, if the parents are unable to agree on custody, the court will decide for them. Sometimes the court seeks professional advice from outside experts who evaluate the family situation or offer an opinion about custody. In some situations, the court also may order an investigation by a social service or other agency. In every case, the court must decide custody based on a determination of the best interests of the child. Usually it is best if parents can agree on decisions about raising children after a legal separation or divorce. The court usually accepts the parents’ mutual decision, but the court’s decision about custody must be made in the best interests of the child. After review of the agreement’s terms, the duty imposed on the court by law may require that the court not accept the parents’ agreement.
State law provides guidance to the courts by listing factors that the court should consider. These include such things as the wishes of the parents, the child’s wishes, how the child interacts with each parent and any other children in the family, the health of each person involved, the child’s adjustment to home, school and community, which parent primarily has provided care for the child in the past and which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent. The court also must consider whether there has been domestic violence in the family, drug or alcohol use by a parent or other circumstances that may endanger the child’s physical, mental, emotional or moral health. The court will presume that an award of custody to a parent who committed an act of domestic violence is contrary to the child’s best interests.
If the parents request joint legal custody, they also must submit to the court a written plan (parenting plan) indicating how they will cooperate to raise and care for the child. The court may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody. The court also may order joint legal custody even if one parent objects. The court’s decision will be made in the best interests of the child. A parent who is required to relocate in less than 60 days must be a parent with joint physical custody and have the agreement of both parents or a court order allowing the move of the child. If agreement cannot be reached in the situation of required relocation in less than 60 days, the moving parent must file a request with the court.
The term “reasonable parenting time” means time spent with a child that is average for most cases. Although the term has sometimes been used in parenting plans and even in court orders, parenting time decisions depend on the circumstances of each family, considering the child’s age and development. When parenting time is described only as “reasonable,” it is difficult to predict when or for how long parenting time periods should occur. When preparing an agreement or parenting plan, it is recommended that parents specifically decide when and for how long parenting time periods will be, including how to handle and allocate special occasions like vacations, school breaks, birthdays and holidays so that both parents are considered. Parents are free to agree on the best parenting time plan for their child. If parents cannot agree, or if their agreement is not working, court action may be necessary. Remember, only the Superior Court can decide parenting time matters and issue an order that can be enforced if disagreements arise or if one parent does not honor the parenting time schedule.
As with custody, the court may grant a parenting time order only in certain kinds of cases. Most frequently, parenting time is determined when the parents are seeking a legal separation or divorce, or when parents are asking the court to change a parenting time decision that was made in an earlier separation or divorce case. Parenting time may also be ordered when one parent starts a court case to decide paternity (or maternity) of a child or after a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. When a parent starts a court case for legal separation or divorce, child custody and parenting time automatically become issues for the court to decide if the parents cannot agree. After a decree of legal separation or divorce has been granted, the court still has authority to change (modify) an earlier parenting time order. Either parent may request in writing that the court decide what parenting time should be. The request is filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court and a filing fee is charged. If there is a dispute about parenting time, the court sometimes refers the parents to court mediation services. This process gives the parents an opportunity to reach an agreement regarding parenting time and related issues. However, if the parties are unable to agree on parenting time, the court must decide for them. Sometimes the court seeks professional advice to evaluate the family situation or offer an opinion about parenting time.
When making its decision, the court will consider many factors, for example, the age and health of the child, the time each parent has available from work or other obligations, the distance between the parents’ homes, the child’s school schedule and the suitability of living conditions in each parent’s home.
If one parent violates a parenting time order, the other parent cannot deny parenting time, stop paying support or take other self-created action to punish the violating parent (to do so also would violate the court order). Instead, the court should be asked for help. To do this, a parent must file a written request for enforcement with the Clerk of the Superior Court and pay a filing fee. A hearing before the court may be necessary if the matter cannot be resolved.
When a parent files a request for help in enforcing a parenting time order, state law requires the court to take quick action. There are several remedies the court can use to deal with the violating parent. Some of these remedies may include ordering parenting time to make up for missed sessions, ordering the violating parent to attend education classes or counseling and finding the violating parent in contempt of court and ordering monetary fines
The legal process of emancipation can be confusing depending on your state’s laws and the type of parental status involved. Whether a biological parent or stepparent, many times a minor seeking emancipation will need legal advice. To fully understand the emancipation process, including parental rights and responsibilities, you may wish to contact a local family law attorney who can help answer your questions.
Utah Code 78A-6-513 Lawyer
When you need a lawyer to assist you with family law, termination of parental rights, and more, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
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