While Utah Family Courts consider many factors when making a determination about child custody, the ultimate decision rests on what is in the best interests of the child.
Ideally, both parents are awarded joint or shared child custody so they can play an active role in important activities, milestones, and decisions in the lives of their children. We’ve written about this before here. However, in certain circumstances, the court decides to award sole legal and physical custody, giving the legal authority to make major decisions for the children to one parent alone.
If a parent alleges that the other committed domestic violence or sexual abuse against any household member, and there is sufficient evidence to prove it, the court will deny child custody to the abusive spouse. But if the allegations are unfounded, the alleging parent could lose custody.
Parents can also seek and receive full custody of the children if any of the following grievances apply to their spouses:
- Unwillingness to honor their parenting time
- Unauthorized relocation or abduction of the child to a distant location
- Substance abuse or other conduct that jeopardizes the safety of the children
- Religious beliefs that threaten the health and welfare of the child
While Utah child custody applies to children under 18, the courts often consider the preferences of minor children, provided they are old enough to have an opinion.
Custodial Interference Can Be a Game Changer
In a decision entered in June , the Appellate division, Third Department, upheld a Family Court finding that interference by a custodial parent was a significant change in circumstances sufficient to alter a designation of primary custody.
In Keefe v Adams, a 2007 order provided joint legal custody to the parents of a son born in 2002. After divorce, primary physical custody was awarded to the mother, with alternating weekends and holidays with the father.
In 2009, the father petitioned for modification of child custody based on alleged interference by the mother and included the following complaints:
- Child was relocated 42 miles away without notice to the father or agreement, hindering the relationship of father and son, and requiring the child to change schools
- The mother was routinely 15 minutes to two hours late for visitation exchange, and verbally disparaged the father in front of the child
- Evidence existed that the boyfriend of the mother was promoted as a substitute for the father
As a result, the Family Court found the behavior of the mother was damaging to the child and deleterious to the relationship of father and son. In the best interests of the child, the lower court ordered, and the Appellate Court affirmed, a change of custody awarding the father sole legal and physical custody with visitation to the mother.
This dramatic family law case underscores the necessity of vigorous legal representation if the parent of your child is being hostile or interfering—or if those charges are being leveled against you.
Fathers — A Matter of Rights
Without question, a father seeking sole or even joint custody of his children without agreement of the mother has a tough case ahead of him.
Utah courts[H1] decide child custody matters based on the best interests of children. Historically, payment of custody support and visitation was allocated to fathers while child custody was awarded to mothers. Even today—make no mistake—many settled and litigated cases fall along those lines.
But cultural perspectives and family law are changing. With a focus on father’s rights, our firm has participated in an upswing of victories on Long Island for fathers who want to be parents, not just visitors.
If you want to support or restore your position in the life of your children, take note of the following approaches we have successfully used to enforce the rights of men:
- Relationship matters: In relying on best interest factors, a court looks for quality of relationship between parent and child. Do not let legal counsel overlook the close and warm ties you have with your child.
- Preference: By teen years, courts give greater weight to living preferences expressed by children. Arranging an in camera interview between child and judge can help the court understand the real needs and desires of your children.
- Flexibility helps: Flexible work schedules can give fathers a better shot at custody.
Despite changing times, fathers’ rights cases are still complicated. Make sure your attorney is not afraid to protect your rights aggressively—and those of your children—when necessary.
Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer
If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506