There are, however, more elements of Utah law governing parent-time that are inherently unfair and self-defeating. To ensure that your parent-time isn’t made as a knee-jerk reaction by the court, you need to know:
· not only the provisions of the Utah Code;
· but also how the code has been interpreted and construed by the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals; and
· what kind of evidence and expert testimony the courts find most persuasive.
What follows are some of the important points to keep in mind when child custody is at issue.
Q: What is visitation, exactly?
A: Visitation is also known as parent-time. Visitation and parent-time are defined as “A noncustodial parent’s, period of access to a child.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004)
Supervised visitation or parent-time is a situation, usually court-ordered, in which a parent may visit with the child or children only in the presence of some other individual because the parent exercising visitation or parent-time is known or believed to be prone to physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, or poses some other danger to the children. Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004)
If sole custody is awarded, the non custodial parent is awarded “visitation” (what is now currently called “parent-time” in the Utah Code) with the children. Utah has a “standard” or “default” schedule of parent-time that allows weekly contact for three hours per week, alternating holidays, at least half of summer vacation, and on alternating weekends, overnight visits for children five and older.
Parties can vary from the standard schedule and create any schedule of visitation that they and the court deem appropriate for them and the children’s needs. Schedules often have to vary depending on the ages of the children and how far apart the parents live.
A: If the parents do not reach agreement on a parent-time schedule, the Utah Code contains a schedule that is considered the minimum parent-time to which the noncustodial parent and the child shall be entitled.
The minimum parent-time schedule for children under 5 years of age is found at Utah Code § 30-3-35.5.
The minimum parent-time schedule for children 5 to 18 years of age is found at Utah Code § 30-3-35.
Remember: these statutory schedules are minimums, and only for situations where the parents cannot agree on a parent-time schedule of their own. They are not mandatory schedules in all cases.
A: No. The policy is that even if a parent is not paying support, it only hurts children worse to lose contact with the parent on top of losing the financial support.
If a parent fails to comply with a provision of a child support order, the other parent’s obligations under the parenting plan or the child support order are not affected. (See Utah Code § 30-3-10.9(9)). To enforce compliance with a provision of the parenting plan or a child support order one must file a motion to find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court and have him/her punished by the court in the form of financial sanctions, suspension of driver and professional licenses, and even jail.
A: No. The policy is that even if a parent withholds parent-time, it only hurts children worse to lose financial support for something that is not the fault of the children.
To enforce compliance with a provision of the parent-time schedule one can file a Motion to Enforce Parent-time and/or a motion to find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court and have him/her punished by the court in the form of financial sanctions, counseling, and jail sentences. You can also ask for an order from the court for make-up time to give you back the parent-time you were deprived of.