Here are the minimum factors the courts in Utah must consider in making a child custody award in divorce actions:
Utah Code Section 30-3-10. Custody of children in case of separation or divorce — Custody consideration.
(1)(a)(i) the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each of the parties;
(ii) which parent is most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent;
(iii) the extent of bonding between the parent and child, meaning the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between a parent and child;
(iv) whether the parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to a minor, as defined in Section 76-10-1201; and
(v) those factors outlined in Section 30-3-10.2.
Utah Code Section 30-3-10.2. Joint custody order — Factors for court determination — Public assistance.
(2) In determining whether the best interest of a child will be served by ordering joint legal or physical custody, the court shall consider the following factors:
(a) whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal or physical custody;
(b) the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest;
(c) whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
(d) whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce;
(e) the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents;
(f) the preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal or physical custody;
(g) the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents;
(h) the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly;
(i) any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnaping; and
(j) any other factors the court finds relevant.
(3) The determination of the best interest of the child shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.
(4) The court shall inform both parties that an order for joint physical custody may preclude eligibility for cash assistance provided under Title 35A, Chapter 3, Employment Support Act.
(5) The court may order that where possible the parties attempt to settle future disputes by a dispute resolution method before seeking enforcement or modification of the terms and conditions of the order of joint legal custody or joint physical custody through litigation, except in emergency situations requiring ex parte orders to protect the child.
Utah Code Section 30-3-10(1)(b) factors:
(i) domestic violence in the home or in the presence of the child;
(ii) special physical or mental needs of a parent or child, making joint legal custody unreasonable;
(iii) physical distance between the residences of the parents, making joint decision making impractical in certain circumstances;
(iv) any other factor the court considers relevant[.]
(e) The court may inquire of the children and take into consideration the children’s desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the children’s custody or parent-time otherwise. The desires of a child 14 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor.
Utah Code Section 30-3-10(2 – 5) factors:
(2) In awarding custody, the court shall consider, among other factors the court finds relevant:
– which parent is most likely to act in the best interests of the child,
– including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent as the court finds appropriate.
(3) If the court finds that one parent does not desire custody of the child, the court shall take that evidence into consideration in determining whether to award custody to the other parent.(4)
(a) Except as provided in Subsection (4)(b), a court may not discriminate against a parent due to a disability, as defined in Section 57-21-2, in awarding custody or determining whether a substantial change has occurred for the purpose of modifying an award of custody.
(b) If a court takes a parent’s disability into account in awarding custody or determining whether a substantial change has occurred for the purpose of modifying an award of custody, the parent with a disability may rebut any evidence, presumption, or inference arising from the disability by showing that:
(i) the disability does not significantly or substantially inhibit the parent’s ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue; or
(ii) the parent with a disability has sufficient human, monetary, or other resources available to supplement the parent’s ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue.
(5) This section establishes neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint physical custody or sole physical custody, but allows the court and the family the widest discretion to choose a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.
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