Salt Lake City Child Custody Lawyers
Serious and Analytical Advocates with Your Best Interests in Mind
Christensen Law is driven by a team of analytical and professional lawyers who take every case seriously – and personally. The firm’s attorneys are aggressive in court as they represent their clients, but they are empathetic in the consultation room as they listen and learn about your custody situation. The firm prioritizes personalized, customer-oriented legal service, and you can trust that your child custody case will be in skilled, experienced hands with Christensen Law.
Parents can work out a custody arrangement on their own or go to Utah family court and have a judge decide the arrangement. In either situation, the custody order should address physical and legal custody of the child, where physical custody is where the child lives, and legal custody is a parent’s right to make educational, medical, religious, legal, or even cultural decisions for the child.
A parent with physical custody primarily lives with the child. Parents can share physical custody (joint physical custody), or one parent may have “sole” or “primary” physical custody. The parent who spends the most time with the child is designated the “custodial parent,” and the other parent is the “noncustodial parent.” Parents can similarly share legal custody, or one parent may have sole decision-making power over the child. However, in situations where parents share legal custody, the custodial parent will have the final say on decisions where the parents cannot agree.
Setting a Visitation Schedule
Under Utah custody laws, a custody order must establish a visitation schedule covering weekly, monthly, holiday, and summer visits. Both parents are entitled to regular time with their child, and neither parent can prevent visits.
A noncustodial parent without joint custody is entitled to minimum visitation, and this generally equates to one weeknight per week with the child and overnight visits every other weekend. In limited circumstances where a child’s safety and well-being is at issue (e.g., a parent has a history of substance abuse or domestic violence), a judge may grant only supervised visits that take place at a designated location or agency.
Child’s Best Interests
If parents cannot agree on their own on a custody agreement, the court will step in to make the final decision. A judge must also review a couple’s proposed plan to finalize the order, even if they have settled on an agreement themselves, to ensure it serves the child’s best interests. Primary factors a court will consider when evaluating a custody order are:
- the child’s physical and emotional needs;
- the child’s relationship with each parent;
- the distance between the parents’ residences;
- each parent’s physical and mental health;
- the child’s ties to the community, sibling relationships, and relationships with extended family members;
- each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent;
- either parent’s history of domestic violence;
- the child’s preference if of sufficient age and maturity; and
- any other factor the court deems relevant.
If a child is of a mature age, usually over 14 years old, a judge may weigh their reasonable personal preference. A judge may consider why a child prefers to live with one parent over the other, such as if one parent’s home is closer to the child’s friends and school, which a court found to be a valid reason for preferring to live with that parent over the other, who lived much farther away. If a child prefers to live with a parent for an unreasonable preference, such as if that parent gives them lavish gifts, the judge will not grant that opinion as much weight. Regardless, though, a judge can always overrule a child’s preference if it’s in their best interest.
Modifying an Order
The courts understand that times and circumstances may change as children grow older. Utah custody laws allow either parent to file a custody modification request if there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the child or parents, or if more than 3 years have passed since entry of the previous custody order. In both situations, though, the parent requesting a custody change must show that the modification would serve the child’s best interests.
When considering whether a modification is appropriate, a judge will consider the same best interests factors as mentioned above, and they will hold a court hearing to consider all the evidence. Be aware that a child’s needs, rather than a parent’s wishes, will determine the outcome of the case. For instance, a parent wanting to relocate for a new job is not as sufficient a reason as, say, the impact of a medical crisis.
Let Christensen Law Help You
If you are facing a custody battle – whether in the court room or the mediation room – it is imperative that you enlist the legal guidance of an experienced child custody attorney. Negotiating with a spouse outside of the court, going to trial before a judge, and modifying an existing order are all complicated processes that may be drawn out if not approached appropriately. The lawyers at Christensen Law have years of experience in the child custody field and can guide you through the legal process and protect your right as a parent with your child’s best interests in mind.
I will never be able to thank them enough. Best law firm ever.- Michaela H.
I would recommend this firm to anyone and plenty of people I know have used them.- Rebecca Z.
Steve has made history with our case, fighting a nearly impossible case and won- Holley P.
I cannot recommend and thank them enough!- Christian J.
Steve has been great to work with!- Former Client
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