Utah Code 78A-6-505
Judiciary and Judicial Administration: Contents of petition
1. The petition for termination of parental rights shall include, to the best information or belief of the petitioner:
a) the name and place of residence of the petitioner;
b) the name, sex, date and place of birth, and residence of the child;
c) the relationship of the petitioner to the child;
d) the names, addresses, and dates of birth of the parents, if known;
e) the name and address of the person having legal custody or guardianship, or acting in loco parentis to the child, or the organization or agency having legal custody or providing care for the child;
f) the grounds on which termination of parental rights is sought, in accordance with Section 78A-6-507 ; and
g) the names and addresses of the persons or the authorized agency to whom legal custody or guardianship of the child might be transferred.
2. A copy of any relinquishment or consent, if any, previously executed by the parent or parents shall be attached to the petition.
There are many facets of parenting. Two of these are the rights that parents hold regarding the ability to see and raise their children and the responsibilities they have for supporting their children and their children’s actions. Not every family is the same, so determining these rights and responsibilities can be difficult. However, there are legal processes for both the creation and termination of parental privileges and obligations.
The legal concept of parental rights generally refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, health care, and religion, among other things. If parents are separated or divorce, these rights can extend to custody and visitation. While these rights can be automatic in certain family structures, such as with married parents at the birth of the child, it may be necessary for a parent to petition a court for the rights, as in cases of disputed paternity. Parental rights can also be terminated, either explicitly or implicitly. A father who never claims paternity, or against whom paternity is never established, has no parental rights. A father can also voluntarily relinquish parental rights. A court can also terminate rights for either parent, against his or her wishes, in cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment, or if a parent has a long-term mental illness, alcohol or drug impairment, or incarceration period.
Parents can also be legally responsible for their children’s behavior. State laws can vary, but from the time a child is around 8 years old and until he or she reaches the age of majority (18 in most states), parents could be subject to civil lawsuits or even criminal sanctions for the negligent or criminal acts of a child. In civil cases, if a child’s negligence causes an injury to another; his or her parents may be ordered to pay damages or restitution. In the criminal sense, parents could be punished for their children’s delinquency or absence from school, gun crimes, or Internet crimes. Like parental responsibility, parental liability can also be terminated. Normally, this occurs automatically when a child reaches the age of majority and is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. However, if a parent’s legal rights are terminated for any reason, their legal liability is normally terminated as well.
There are two aspects to custody over a minor child: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the legal authority to make decisions for the child such as where they will attend school, what religion they will be raised in, and when to obtain medical care. Physical custody is who the child lives with. There are two aspects to custody over a minor child: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the legal authority to make decisions for the child such as where they will attend school, what religion they will be raised in, and when to obtain medical care. Physical custody is who the child lives with. If parents are getting divorced, a court will have to make orders allocating the parental rights and responsibilities. If the parents are not married, they may ask a court to make the same kinds of orders about their children as a court would make if they were getting divorced.
Some of the reasons unmarried parents ask for a court’s help are:
• The parents cannot work together.
• One parent refuses to support the child.
• One parent is denied time with the child.
• There is a threat that the child will be removed from the state.
• There is a threat that the child will be injured.
• The parents want to resolve parenting issues before there is a dispute.
Asking a court to intervene in your relationship with the other parent can hurt that relationship. Sometimes parents work well together and do not need a court order. Deciding whether or not to file a petition is an important decision. There is no right or wrong; each case is different. Before filing anything that could have such long lasting effect on your family, you should get legal advice specifically tailored to your circumstances. Whether you file a Petition for Divorce (see prior sections) or a Petition for Parental Rights and Responsibilities the actual process remains essentially the same. In any case involving children, the documents required are the same:
• Parenting Plan;
• Financial Affidavit;
• Child Support Guidelines Worksheet;
• Uniform Support Order.
The first time you appear in court (the First Appearance, Temporary Hearing, or Structuring Conference) you must present these documents to the court, and give copies to the opposing party or his/her attorney. Each time you appear in court make sure you bring up-to-date copies of these documents with you. You have an obligation to make sure that you give the court up-to-date documents every time you appear. There are a number of requirements that have to be met before a Utah Court can make a decision as to a parent’s custody and visitation rights. There are various exceptions and other lesser-known rules that may apply to your individual case and your attorney can help you sort through those if they’re applicable, but for most cases where your children have been living in Utah for the past 6 months the following general rules will apply:
• If you’re married and filing a Petition for Divorce, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where you or your spouse have resided for the last three months.
• If you’re not married and you’re filing a petition to establish paternity over your child, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where the child resides.
Requirements When Filing for Joint Child Custody
Whenever you file for any type of joint custody (joint legal or joint physical custody) you must file a parenting plan. Failure to file a parenting plan can potentially be devastating. This is so because many custody battles end up in a temporary orders hearing where the court will implement a temporary parent-time schedule. If you are asking for joint physical custody, and the other parent has the children a majority of the time, and you have not filed a parenting plan, the court cannot technically award you joint physical custody. This would mean the court would award the other parent with primary physical custody, you would have less time with your children, your child support amount would be higher, and your case for permanent joint custody could be weakened. Getting deserved custody and parent-time with your children as fast as possible is paramount for any concerned parent. Because of this, you must be sure that you start your case out on the right foot. Making even basic errors can cause serious delay in getting the court to intervene and give you court orders protecting your custodial rights.
There are benefits and downsides to filing pro se. For parents who want to file for child custody but who cannot afford a lawyer, filing pro se is a viable alternative. In addition, when you file without a lawyer, you learn a lot about the legal system, which can equip you to be your own best advocate. Still, seeking child custody is a stressful process, and navigating the legal system can require a steep learning curve. Not everyone has the time and emotional bandwidth required for representing themselves in court. If you decide to file pro se, here are some things to keep in mind.
Before You File
Filing for child custody pro se requires research and planning. Parents who head into court solo should be prepared to pay close attention to detail, maintain meticulous paperwork, and understand the laws related to their case. Consider your bandwidth as you evaluate whether going through this process without the assistance of a lawyer is right for you.
Consider Your Options
Before you go to court, think about how confident you feel about representing yourself. If you feel apprehensive, consider contacting a legal aid organization near you. Legal aid organizations offer free legal advice and representation to low-income individuals. They can be a great resource and may be able to give you further direction before going to court. If you decide to go ahead with representing yourself, give careful thought to all of your child custody options. While sole physical custody may feel like the best option to you because you don’t want to live apart from your kids or your ex is difficult to work with, remember that the court will consider the best interests of the child when ruling on custody arrangements. Try to think about your case from the perspective of the court and consider which custody options they might favor as being in your children’s best interests.
Terminational Of Parental Rights Research
Laws vary by state, so be sure to research child custody laws that will apply to you based on where you will be filing. The U.S. Department of Health of Human Services provides best interest standards by state. In addition to understanding best interest standards, make sure you have a solid understanding of the details, legal hoops, and fine print that could impact your case. Some things that could influence a child custody decision include:
• Evidence of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
• Who has been the primary caretaker up to this point
• The ability of each party to provide for the child’s needs
• How a custody arrangement would or wouldn’t provide continuity for the child
• The physical and mental health of both parents and children
• The living accommodations a parent is able to provide
• The relationship between a child and a parent
File a Petition for Custody
Once you’ve considered your options and familiarized yourself with the laws in your state, it’s time to file a petition for custody. Again, laws and processes vary from state to state, but filing a petition is pretty similar in most states. Begin by contacting the family court clerk to obtain the proper paperwork. Typically, the court with which you must file will be located in the county where your child has lived for the past six months. Be sure to inform the clerk that you are filing pro se so that you access the correct forms. Sometimes forms can be accessed online or printed from home. In other cases, you may need to go down to the courthouse to obtain the paperwork in person. Legal aid offices may also have the forms you need.
Documents you’ll likely need include:
• Proof of paternity or legal parentage
• Child’s birth certificate
• Any existing orders related to the child
Be sure to read the instructions on the forms carefully. Other forms that may be required to accompany the petition might include:
• A summons that informs the other parent that they are being sued for custody
• A notice of appearance if you plan to represent yourself
• Request for child support
Serve the Other Party
After you have filed your paperwork, you’ll need to notify the other parent by serving them the court papers. Be sure to read your state’s court rules for child custody cases to find out what the exact rules of service are. Typically, papers must be served in person. Often, they may be served by a legal adult not related to the case. The rules accompanying your paperwork will state the timeframe in which service must occur. If you are unsure, ask the court clerk for assistance. Once you have served the other party, you must let the court know. This official notice is called proof of service. Proof of service forms can be obtained from the court. They detail how, when, where, and to whom papers were served.
Keep Good Records
Maintain clear, detailed child custody documentation. Keep a record of visits, phone calls, emails, and any other forms of contact between you and your children’s other parent and between your children and the other parent. As best as you can, stick to the facts and keep the language neutral.
Attend Mediation and/or Hearing
Before mediation or a hearing is scheduled, the court must wait for a response to your motion from the other party. Courts typically offer three to four weeks for the other parent to respond. If the other party does not respond, the court will usually offer a default judgment, meaning that they will rule in favor of the custody arrangement you have laid out in your petition. Once a response from the other party is received, the court will schedule a mediation or a hearing.
Mediation In Family Law Cases
Your state may require mediation before jumping straight to a hearing. Unless there is domestic violence or other abuse, mediation can be faster, less expensive, more cooperative, and eliminate the need for a court battle. Whether you attend mediation or a hearing (or both), be sure to pay close attention to all of the deadlines and dates related to your case. Many of the papers you will need to file will require follow up activities within a given time period. Keep all of your papers and materials organized so that you do not miss a single deadline.
A Hearing In Your Family Law Case
On your court date, arrive on time. In court, be polite and respectful at all times. Proper court etiquette includes addressing the judge as “Your Honor.” Never interrupt the judge, and if you are uncertain if you may talk, ask the judge if you may speak. Don’t allow the judge to see your anger and frustration. Instead, focus on being pleasant and attentive and presenting the facts of your case. When the hearing has finished, the judge will issue a decision on your case. A decision is often rendered immediately. They will also issue a written order. Make sure you obtain a copy of the written order and follow the order.
Utah Code 78A-6-505 Lawyer
When you need an attorney to help you with Utah Code 78A-6-505, please call Ascent Law LLC 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