Protecting your relationship with your kids will likely be your top priority if you and your spouse need to divorce before your children become adults. Child custody is often one of the most difficult parts of a divorce, and former spouses frequently fight bitterly to secure more time with their children.
What you hope to achieve in custody proceedings may not reflect how Utah usually handles divorce issues that involve children. Familiarizing yourself with how the Utah family courts approach custody will make it easier for you to plan for your divorce and for your life after divorce.
There is a presumption that children benefit from shared physical custody
The Utah courts divide custody into two categories:
- Physical custody involves spending time with the children and providing for their basic needs.
- Legal custody refers to having decision-making authority for children post-divorce.
Although the courts will analyze custody needs on a case-by-case basis, they currently assume that children will benefit from plenty of parenting time with each of their parents, providing there is no evidence of abuse, neglect or other issues that will prevent one parent from adequately taking care of the children.
Unless one parent can provide evidence of substance abuse, poor mental health or dangerous behavior on behalf of their former spouse, the courts are unlikely to award sole physical custody. Instead, the courts will try to focus on the best interests of the children by allowing each parent time to have time with them and a say in the critical decisions that shape their lives.
Shared or even split custody could be an outcome in your divorce
Shared physical and legal custody are common outcomes for divorcing parents. A judge can also order shared physical custody to both parents but sole legal custody to just one of them, making it possible for only one parent to make decisions on behalf of the children. If you have multiple children, it is possible that the courts might split custody, meaning that you and your former spouse will each take primary or sole custody of one or more of your children.
In the end, most couples should prepare themselves for a future that involves shared custody or co-parenting following divorce. Sharing parental responsibilities can make parenting easier for you and will ultimately help your children preserve their relationships with their family.