New Utah bill could encourage more equal parenting time after divorce

New legislation in Utah seeks to establish an optional parenting schedule that would encourage more parenting nights for non-custodial parents.

Shared parenting is becoming increasingly common across the U.S., as many people in Ogden may have noticed. According to USA Today, surveys show that a growing number of families support this arrangement. More states are also passing or weighing laws that presume shared parenting is in the best interests of children. This trend is reflected in a new Utah bill, which would promote a more even division of parenting time.

Shared parenting guidelines

The bill would create a new optional parent-time schedule for parents who cannot independently agree to a parenting plan. The bill would also establish a rebuttable presumption that such a schedule is in the best interests of children. The optional schedule would award a new minimum of 145 parenting nights to non-custodial parents. This schedule would only apply to children between ages 5 and 18.

Under the bill, this schedule could only be ordered if the non-custodial parent demonstrated sufficient involvement in the child's life. Courts would also need to consider other factors to determine whether shared parenting would best suit the child. These factors could include the non-custodial parent's finances, the distance between both homes and the ability of both parents to communicate cooperatively.

Utah courts would retain the power to order other arrangements if equal parenting time was not considered best for the child. Parents would also be able to challenge the presumption that shared parenting time is the ideal arrangement for a child.

Requesting other arrangements

Under the bill, a parent could challenge the presumption that the optional schedule most benefits a child on various grounds. These include the following issues:

  • Danger to the child - family law courts will not support an arrangement that might harm a child's physical or emotional well-being. When awarding custody, a court may weigh allegations of domestic violence or abuse, regardless of whether the allegations have been proven.
  • Parental commitment and availability - the court may consider whether the non-custodial parent is reliable, available and involved in the child's life. The court may choose not to use the optional schedule if a parent frequently misses or ignores scheduled parenting time.
  • The child's interests and preferences - the court may take the child's own desires into account. The court may also consider whether the child has any interests in common with the non-custodial parent.

As these considerations show, the passage of the bill would not necessarily guarantee more parenting time for every non-custodial parent. Each family has a unique dynamic. In every divorce, the behaviors, relationships and past actions of both parents can significantly influence the final custody arrangement.

Guidance during divorce

This proposed change illustrates the complexity of custody decisions and the evolving nature of custody laws. Given these complicating factors, parents preparing for divorces in Utah should consider seeking legal guidance. A family law attorney may be able to offer advice on pursuing an agreeable outcome for parents and children alike.

Keywords: divorce, custody, child