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Category: Change of Circumstances

I Was Just Laid Off, Through No Fault of My Own, and Don’t Know How Soon I’ll Find Work Again or How Much I Might Actually Earn Once I Do. How Do I Get the Court to Reduce or Terminate My Alimony Obligation?

A reduction in the alimony award obligation is extremely difficult to obtain. It’s designed to be difficult to modify downward, so that only those who 1) are truly unable to pay, and/or 2) can prove there is no longer a need to pay, receive relief.
And as you can imagine, even if you believe you have a strong case for alimony reduction or termination, your ex will likely resist your efforts by every means available to him/her.
To get a reduction, you need to prove that your income has decreased on a non-temporary basis due to no fault of your own and/or that the alimony recipient’s need to be paid alimony has decreased or no longer exists.
Losing your job is usually not enough to obtain a reduction or elimination of alimony. If you can also show that your job cannot be replaced or cannot be replaced at the same level of income that your lost job paid, you may have some hope of obtaining an order reducing or eliminating your alimony obligation. Otherwise, mere loss of a job will not be enough. It’s expected and anticipated that people who lose their jobs will find a new job making essentially the same amount of money in most situations.
Has your ex-spouse’s income increased to the point that he/she can support herself at the lifestyle to which he/she was accustomed during the marriage? Or has he/she voluntarily reduced his/her lifestyle expenses? If so, and if you can prove it, you may be able to persuade the court to terminate or reduce your alimony obligation on the basis that the need for alimony has decreased or even ceased to exist.
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CPS Has Encouraged Parental Alienation Before My Parental Rights Have Been Taken, My Public Defender Has Not Been Representing Me the Way He Was Supposed to Be, but I Didn’t Know Until Now. What Can I Do?

There are plenty of things you can do (plenty of activity in which you can engage), but whether any of it will do any good is the question. The answer is usually: not likely. When child protective services (CPS) is working against you, then usually law enforcement and the courts follow suit, whether you’re “guilty” or not. If you have a public defender, then you’re poor, and while there is no shame simply in being poor, it limits your options in a fight like this.

All that stated, you need to fight with all you have for what’s right, or the regret and wondering “what might have been?” will surely torment you the rest of your life. You already know the outcome if you give up.

Now, pick your battles. Don’t run faster than you have strength, and don’t engage in “ends justify the means” tactics, but fight the good fight, so that if, some day, you confront your child who asks, “Did you try your best for me, Mom/Dad?,” you can answer in the affirmative.

Sometimes doing your best means kicking the bad habits, addictions, and mental health afflictions. The work on ourselves if often the hardest—not impossible (thankfully), but the hardest

I wish I had more for you, but this is the best I can offer.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/In-California-CPS-has-encouraged-parental-alienation-before-my-parental-rights-have-been-taken-my-public-defender-has-not-been-representing-me-the-way-he-was-supposed-to-be-but-I-didnt-know-until-now-What-can-I-do

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Is mom deemed to be unfit or unstable if she’s going to school to better her career for a better living for her two year old child while temporarily receiving unemployment benefits. Can mom still be granted joint custody with the other parent?

I am a divorce and family lawyer. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a court anywhere in this country (USA) that would consider a mother temporarily receiving unemployment benefits while attending school improve her career to earn a better living for her and her child(ren) unfit or unstable or otherwise unfit to be awarded joint custody of the child(ren) with the other parent.

If Mom making fraudulent claims of attending school improve her earning capacity, when in fact she is just taking the “perpetual student” lazy person’s way out, there’s nothing wrong with exposing that.

If your argument is that a mother who works cannot divide her time and attention between employment and caregiving to take adequate care of a child, there are some real world scenarios where that is true, but generally, most parents (married or separated) both work in today’s world.

Would you be happier with paying to support both the mother and the child financially (*i.e.*, be careful what you wish for; you might get it)?

Or are you a stay-at-home father who does not need to work to obtain sufficient income? If you are arguing that the working mother should not be awarded equal physical custody of the child(ren) because you can provide full-time care for the child(ren) without having to place them in daycare during the work day, that is an argument that may get some traction when opposing an award of equal physical custody, but I have a problem with that argument because it tends to punish financially responsible people who must work to support themselves.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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House Bill 193 (HB0198 (utah.gov))

Another bill under consideration during the 2024 Utah legislative session is House Bill 193 (HB0198 (utah.gov)).

This bill would, if passed into law, 1) make clear that a “totality of circumstances” analysis applies when  a juvenile court determines whether to terminate parental rights; 2) provide that the existence of a placement option that does not require the termination of parental rights does not preclude a finding, based on the totality of the circumstances, that termination of parental rights is strictly necessary to promote the child’s best interest; and 3) as applicable, require the juvenile court to include the considerations described in Utah Code Sections 80-4-303 and 80-4-304 when determining the best interest of the child.

While Utah caselaw already made clear that a “totality of circumstances” analysis applies when a juvenile court determines whether to terminate parental rights. And the Utah Code already requires a juvenile court to include in its determinations in Sections 80-4-303 and 80-4-304 when determining the best interest of the child, it does not appear to me that making this clear in the statute itself is a bad thing.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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House Bill 140 (HB0140 (utah.gov)), “Amendments to Custody and Parent-Time”

Today’s post on proposed family law legislation under consideration during the 2024 Utah legislative session is House Bill 140 (HB0140 (utah.gov)), “Amendments to Custody and Parent-Time”.

This bill, according to its own description:

  • provides that a substantial and material change in circumstances for a custody order includes a parent residing with an individual, or providing the individual with access to the parent’s child, when the individual has been convicted of certain crimes;
  • amends the advisory guidelines for a custody and parent-time arrangement to allow for parental notification when a parent is residing with an individual, or providing the individual with access to the parent’s child, and the individual has been convicted of certain crimes;
  • amends the advisory guidelines for a custody and parent-time arrangement in regard to notification of a parent in the event of a medical emergency; and
  • makes technical and conforming changes.

It would amend the following code sections, if passed into law:

Utah Code § 30-3-10.4

Utah Code § 30-3-33

My thoughts on this bill:

If this bill passed, what effect would it have? A parent discovers that the person he/she resides with or to whom the parent has “provide access to his/her child(ren)” meets one or more of the child abuse/child sexual abuse factors and has to notify the other parent of this fact? So what? Unless the person is barred from contact with children, then unless that person has abused, attempted to abuse, or threatened to abuse the child(ren), what can legally be done? A child being in the presence of a child abuse ex-con is not itself a “substantial and material change of circumstances” justifying a modification of child custody or parent-time, in my view. We can’t keep punishing someone repeatedly for the same crime.

And the definition of “sex offender” gets broader all the time. You can get on the sex offender list for the silliest of things (I know a guy who went streaking in college and is on the sex offender list—it was stupid of him to go streaking, but a little kid saw him from a neighboring window and that’s what got him on the sex offender list).

Yes, living with a child abuse ex-con or providing a child abuse ex-con “access to the child(ren)” is poor judgment, but without the children being harmed or in danger of being harmed, there’s not enough to go on to do anything.

But I get it. If I were a divorced or single parent, I wouldn’t want the other parent living with a convicted sex offender either (assuming the offense was a serious one, and not one of those “he/she is on the sex offender list for public urination” kind of convictions).

It’s not a matter of how I feel about sex offenders (real sex offenses are vile), it’s whether the proposed law would do any good. I don’t think it would. Especially not in the legal system we have now. What good one perceives such a law would do and what it would actually do are quite different, in my view.

I don’t know a great deal about the sex offender registry law and other post-conviction laws. Are convicted sex offenders required to notify prospective boyfriends/girlfriends or spouses that they are convicted sex offenders currently? It is my understanding that they do not. If they do, then H.B. 140 may have stronger rational footing than I believe. If not, then the bill doesn’t appear to make much legal sense to me (meaning: I don’t see what good it will actually do, no matter how good it may feel to propose such a law).

Even if the law were passed, it would not likely be the basis for a modification of a child custody or parent-time order. Living with someone who is a convicted sex offender alone is simply not proof of any harm or sufficient danger to a child (just as living with one convicted of a violent crime, drug use, drug dealing, or other crimes is not). I don’t know the real statistics about the rate of recidivism for sex offenders, but even if we assume for the sake of discussion that it’s very high, that alone would not, in my view, likely be seen by a court as a reason to change custody. Like it or not.

If a parent resided with a sex offender with a history of repeated offenses, that might qualify as too great a risk to a child, but if we’re talking one conviction (maybe even two, sadly), that may not be enough to establish the sex offender as a danger to the children. My opinion is not based upon sympathy for sex offenders but on what I believe the courts would do in the situation you describe. This is why you’ll notice that there has not been a bill proposed that prevents a single parent or divorced parent from marrying or living with a convicted sex offender. I believe it would be found unconstitutional, that it would be found to unduly punish those who don’t re-offend.

Besides, how would one ever prove that a parent who resides with a convicted sex offender or provides him/her with access to that parent’s knows that the individual is a sex offender or worse, “an offense that is substantially similar to” a sex offense (see lines 57 and 58 of the bill, emphasis mine).

No matter how good the intent behind H.B. 140 may be, I foresee far too many adverse unintended consequences and abuses of such a law.

AMENDMENTS TO CUSTODY AND PARENT-TIME

33     Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
34          Section 1. Section 30-3-10.4 is amended to read:
35          30-3-10.4. Modification or termination of order.
36          (1) The court has continuing jurisdiction to make subsequent changes to modify:
37          (a) custody of a child if there is a showing of a substantial and material change in
38     circumstances since the entry of the order; and
39          (b) parent-time for a child if there is a showing that there is a change in circumstances
40     since the entry of the order.
41          (2) A substantial and material change in circumstances under Subsection (1)(a)
42     includes a showing by a parent that the other parent:
43          (a) resides with an individual or provides an individual with access to the child; and
44          (b) knows that the individual:
45          (i) is required to register as a sex offender or a kidnap offender for an offense against a
46     child under Title 77, Chapter 41, Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry;
47          (ii) is required to register as a child abuse offender under Title 77, Chapter 43, Child
48     Abuse Offender Registry; or
49          (iii) has been convicted of:
50          (A) a child abuse offense under Section 76-5-10976-5-109.276-5-109.376-5-114,
51     or 76-5-208;
52          (B) a sexual offense against a child under Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses;
53          (C) an offense for kidnapping or human trafficking of a child under Title 76, Chapter 5,
54     Part 3, Kidnapping, Trafficking, and Smuggling;
55          (D) a sexual exploitation offense against a child under Title 76, Chapter 5b, Sexual
56     Exploitation Act; or

57          (E) an offense that is substantially similar to an offense under Subsections
58     (2)(b)(iii)(A) through (D).
59          [(1)(3) On the petition of one or both of the parents, or the joint legal or physical
60     custodians if they are not the parents, the court may, after a hearing, modify or terminate an
61     order that established joint legal custody or joint physical custody if:
62          (a) the verified petition or accompanying affidavit initially alleges that admissible
63     evidence will show that the circumstances of the child or one or both parents or joint legal or
64     physical custodians have materially and substantially changed since the entry of the order to be
65     modified;
66          (b) a modification of the terms and conditions of the order would be an improvement
67     for and in the best interest of the child; and
68          (c) (i) both parents have complied in good faith with the dispute resolution procedure
69     in accordance with Subsection 30-3-10.3(7); or
70          (ii) if no dispute resolution procedure is contained in the order that established joint
71     legal custody or joint physical custody, the court orders the parents to participate in a dispute
72     resolution procedure in accordance with Subsection 30-3-10.2(5) unless the parents certify that,
73     in good faith, they have used a dispute resolution procedure to resolve their dispute.
74          [(2)(4) (a) In determining whether the best interest of a child will be served by either
75     modifying or terminating the joint legal custody or joint physical custody order, the court shall,
76     in addition to other factors the court considers relevant, consider the factors outlined in Section
77     30-3-10 and Subsection 30-3-10.2(2).
78          (b) A court order modifying or terminating an existing joint legal custody or joint
79     physical custody order shall contain written findings that:
80          (i) a material and substantial change of circumstance has occurred; and
81          (ii) a modification of the terms and conditions of the order would be an improvement
82     for and in the best interest of the child.
83          (c) The court shall give substantial weight to the existing joint legal custody or joint
84     physical custody order when the child is thriving, happy, and well-adjusted.
85          [(3)(5) The court shall, in every case regarding a petition for termination of a joint
86     legal custody or joint physical custody order, consider reasonable alternatives to preserve the
87     existing order in accordance with Subsection 30-3-10(3). The court may modify the terms and

88     conditions of the existing order in accordance with Subsection 30-3-10(8) and may order the
89     parents to file a parenting plan in accordance with this chapter.
90          [(4)(6) A parent requesting a modification from sole custody to joint legal custody or
91     joint physical custody or both, or any other type of shared parenting arrangement, shall file and
92     serve a proposed parenting plan with the petition to modify in accordance with Section
93     30-3-10.8.
94          [(5)(7) If the court finds that an action under this section is filed or answered
95     frivolously and in a manner designed to harass the other party, the court shall assess attorney
96     fees as costs against the offending party.
97          [(6)(8) If an issue before the court involves custodial responsibility in the event of
98     deployment of one or both parents who are service members, and the service member has not
99     yet been notified of deployment, the court shall resolve the issue based on the standards in
100     Sections 78B-20-306 through 78B-20-309.
101          Section 2. Section 30-3-33 is amended to read:
102          30-3-33. Advisory guidelines for a custody and parent-time arrangement.
103          (1) In addition to the parent-time schedules provided in Sections 30-3-35 and
104     30-3-35.5, the following advisory guidelines are suggested to govern [all parent-time
105     arrangementsa custody and parent-time arrangement between parents.
106          [(1)(2) [Parent-time schedulesA parent-time schedule mutually agreed upon by both
107     parents [areis preferable to a court-imposed solution.
108          [(2)(3) [TheA parent-time schedule shall be used to maximize the continuity and
109     stability of the child’s life.
110          [(3)(4) [Special consideration shall be given by each parentEach parent shall give
111     special consideration to make the child available to attend family functions including funerals,
112     weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant
113     events in the life of the child or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict
114     with the parent-time schedule.
115          [(4)(5) (a) The court shall determine the responsibility for the pick up, delivery, and
116     return of the child [shall be determined by the court] when the parent-time order is entered[,
117     and may be changed].
118          (b) The court may change the responsibility described in Subsection (5)(a) at any time

119     a subsequent modification is made to the parent-time order.
120          [(5)(c) If the noncustodial parent will be providing transportation, the custodial parent
121     shall:
122          (i) have the child ready for parent-time at the time the child is to be picked up [and
123     shall]; and
124          (ii) be present at the custodial home or [shall] make reasonable alternate arrangements
125     to receive the child at the time the child is returned.
126          [(6)(d) If the custodial parent will be transporting the child, the noncustodial parent
127     shall:
128          (i) be at the appointed place at the time the noncustodial parent is to receive the child[,
129     and]; and
130          (ii) have the child ready to be picked up at the appointed time and place[,] or have
131     made reasonable alternate arrangements for the custodial parent to pick up the child.
132          [(7)(6) [RegularA parent may not interrupt regular school hours [may not be
133     interrupted] for a school-age child for the exercise of parent-time [by either parent].
134          [(8)(7) The court may:
135          (a) make alterations in the parent-time schedule to reasonably accommodate the work
136     schedule of both parents [and may]; and
137          (b) increase the parent-time allowed to the noncustodial parent but may not diminish
138     the standardized parent-time provided in Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5.
139          [(9)(8) The court may make alterations in the parent-time schedule to reasonably
140     accommodate the distance between the parties and the expense of exercising parent-time.
141          [(10)(9) [Neither parent-time nor child support is to be withheld due to eitherA
142     parent may not withhold parent-time or child support due to the other parent’s failure to comply
143     with a court-ordered parent-time schedule.
144          [(11)(10) (a) The custodial parent shall notify the noncustodial parent within 24 hours
145     of receiving notice of all significant school, social, sports, and community functions in which
146     the child is participating or being honored[, and the].
147          (b) The noncustodial parent [shall beis entitled to attend and participate fully in the
148     functions described in Subsection (10)(a).
149          [(12)(c) The noncustodial parent shall have access directly to all school reports

150     including preschool and daycare reports and medical records [and shall be notified immediately
151     by the custodial parent].
152          (d) A parent shall immediately notify the other parent in the event of a medical
153     emergency.
154          [(13)(11) Each parent shall provide the other with the parent’s current address and
155     telephone number, email address, and other virtual parent-time access information within 24
156     hours of any change.
157          [(14)(12) (a) Each parent shall permit and encourage, during reasonable hours,
158     reasonable and uncensored communications with the child, in the form of mail privileges and
159     virtual parent-time if the equipment is reasonably available[, provided that if the parties].
160          (b) If the parents cannot agree on whether the equipment is reasonably available, the
161     court shall decide whether the equipment for virtual parent-time is reasonably available[,by
162     taking into consideration:
163          [(a)(i) the best interests of the child;
164          [(b)(ii) each parent’s ability to handle any additional expenses for virtual parent-time;
165     and
166          [(c)(iii) any other factors the court considers material.
167          [(15)(13) (a) Parental care [shall beis presumed to be better care for the child than
168     surrogate care [and the].
169          (b) The court shall encourage the parties to cooperate in allowing the noncustodial
170     parent, if willing and able to transport the children, to provide the child care.
171          (c) Child care arrangements existing during the marriage are preferred as are child care
172     arrangements with nominal or no charge.
173          [(16)(14) Each parent shall:
174          (a) provide all surrogate care providers with the name, current address, and telephone
175     number of the other parent [and shall]; and
176          (b) provide the noncustodial parent with the name, current address, and telephone
177     number of all surrogate care providers unless the court for good cause orders otherwise.
178          [(17)(15) (a) Each parent [shall beis entitled to an equal division of major religious
179     holidays celebrated by the parents[, and the].
180          (b) The parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not

181     celebrate shall have the right to be together with the child on the religious holiday.
182          [(18)(16) If the child is on a different parent-time schedule than a sibling, based on
183     Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5, the parents should consider if an upward deviation for
184     parent-time with all the minor children so that parent-time is uniform between school aged and
185     nonschool aged children, is appropriate.
186          [(19)(17) (a) When one or both parents are servicemembers or contemplating joining
187     a uniformed service, the parents should resolve issues of custodial responsibility in the event of
188     deployment as soon as practicable through reaching a voluntary agreement pursuant to Section
189     78B-20-201 or through court order obtained pursuant to Section 30-3-10.
190          (b) [ServicemembersService members shall ensure their family care plan reflects
191     orders and agreements entered and filed pursuant to Title 78B, Chapter 20, Uniform Deployed
192     Parents Custody, Parent-time, and Visitation Act.
193          (18) A parent shall immediately notify the other parent if:
194          (a) the parent resides with an individual or provides an individual with access to the
195     child; and
196          (b) the parent knows that the individual:
197          (i) is required to register as a sex offender or a kidnap offender for an offense against a
198     child under Title 77, Chapter 41, Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry;
199          (ii) is required to register as a child abuse offender under Title 77, Chapter 43, Child
200     Abuse Offender Registry; or
201          (iii) has been convicted of:
202          (A) a child abuse offense under Section 76-5-10976-5-109.276-5-109.376-5-114,
203     or 76-5-208;
204          (B) a sexual offense against a child under Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses;
205          (C) an offense for kidnapping or human trafficking of a child under Title 76, Chapter 5,
206     Part 3, Kidnapping, Trafficking, and Smuggling;
207          (D) a sexual exploitation offense against a child under Title 76, Chapter 5b, Sexual
208     Exploitation Act; or
209          (E) an offense that is substantially similar to an offense under Subsections
210     (18)(b)(iii)(A) through (D).

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I’m a US citizen. I got divorced overseas. I have a child custody from an overseas country. What should I do to legalize the overseas court order in the US?

Confer with an attorney in the jurisdiction where you and/or the other parent now reside who has knowledge and experience with registering foreign divorce and child custody orders in the jurisdiction where you and/or the other parent now reside.

(48) I’m a US citizen. I got divorced overseas. I have a child custody from an overseas country. What should I do to legalize the overseas court order in the US? – Quora

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As a Joint Legal and Physical Custodial Parent, Can I Legally Prevent the Other Parent From Going on a Vacation (Either Out of State or Out of the Country) With Our Child or Children?

Unless a court were to order that a parent was barred from traveling out of state or out of the country with the children on vacation, a joint legal and custodial parent has an unfettered right to travel with the children out of state or out of the country on vacation, even if the other parent objects. Of course, if a parent wanted to travel somewhere that is clearly dangerous for anyone or clearly dangerous or deleterious to the children given their age or other relevant factors, a parent could object to traveling there with the children on that basis, but you’ll notice that the basis of the objection wouldn’t be “I don’t want the children traveling there with you” but an objection based upon placing the children in harm’s way. Otherwise stated, if the other parent simply doesn’t like the idea of you traveling out of state or out of the country with the children, that alone would not be a sufficient basis to prevent the children from traveling there.

Now at the beginning of this post I stated that unless a court were to order that a parent was barred from traveling out of state or out of the country with the children, a joint legal and custodial parent has an unfettered right to travel with the children out of state or out of the country, even if the other parent objects. Such an order would be very hard to come by.

Parents have a constitutional right to travel freely, and thus a constitutional right to travel freely with their children if they have sole or joint custody of those children. For a court’s order barring or restricting travel to survive and appeal and be legally enforceable, the court would have to have very good reasons for restricting a parent’s right to travel with the children, such as a parent having abducted or attempted to abduct the children in the past, that parent’s effort to abscond with and conceal the children from the other parent, whether the parent is a flight risk, the parent’s history of interfering with parent-time or visitation, and failure to provide required notices in advance of travel with the children.

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How easy is it to change your child’s last name?

I cannot answer this question as it applies in all jurisdictions, but I can answer the question as it applies in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah): 

Here are the applicable Utah Code sections: 

42-1-1. By petition to district court — Contents. 

Any natural person, desiring to change his name, may file a petition therefor in the district court of the county where he resides, setting forth: 

(1) The cause for which the change of name is sought. 

(2) The name proposed. 

(3) That he has been a bona fide resident of the county for the year immediately prior to the filing of the petition. 

42-1-2. Notice of hearing — Order of change. 

The court shall order what, if any, notice shall be given of the hearing, and after the giving of such notice, if any, may order the change of name as requested, upon proof in open court of the allegations of the petition and that there exists proper cause for granting the same. 

42-1-3. Effect of proceedings. 

Such proceedings shall in no manner affect any legal action or proceeding then pending, or any right, title or interest whatsoever. 

That seems fairly easy, right? I agree, it does seem easy (it deceptively seems easy), and if all you needed to do was go by what the Utah Code says is required of you to get a name change, you’d be right. But for reasons I do not understand, there are many “unwritten rules” governing a name change in Utah, whether for an adult or a minor child. Otherwise stated, if all you did was: 

  • file a petition in the court stating: 
    • the cause for which the change of name is sought; 
    • the name proposed; 
    • that you or your minor child have/has been a bona fide resident of the county for the year immediately prior to the filing of the petition. 
  • schedule the hearing on the petition; 
    • prove three allegations that you were required to make in the petition; 
    • prove that there exists “proper cause” (whatever that means) for granting the petition for change of name; 

that should be all you need to do, according to the Utah Code. But if that is all you did, there is a good chance your petition would be denied. So what are the “unwritten rules” you need to abide by to get a name change for yourself or your minor child? A good place to find out is here: 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/How-easy-is-it-to-change-your-child-s-last-name/answer/Eric-Johnson-311  

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Pending divorce spouse has moved out and stopped paying bills.

Pending divorce spouse has moved out and stopped paying bills. Should I report to my attorney or just wait until we go to court? 

Report this to your attorney immediately. There are many things—and at least two specific things—that you and your attorney can do in response in an effort to protect you and your family.  

And the sooner you inform your attorney, the faster your attorney can respond and the more your attorney can do to ensure that your attorney’s actions provide you the greatest benefit and the greatest protection. 

You want to ensure that bills and other important family expenses are being paid for your and your children’s well-being, to prevent losing your home to foreclosure or eviction, ensuring that you have heat and water and electricity, to ensure that the car is not repossessed, etc. 

You want to ensure that bills and other obligations are paid in full and on time to protect your credit rating, which will be even more important to you after the decree of divorce is entered and you are newly single and will need to rely upon your credit alone. 

If there are already temporary orders (also known as orders pendente lite) in place that order your spouse to pay some or all of certain family expenses, bills, and obligations, you and your attorney can file a motion with the court to enforce these orders and too hold your spouse in contempt for failing to pay them and to compel your spouse to pay them. If such orders are not yet in place,, you and your attorney can file a motion to obtain them for the purpose of ensuring that family expenses continue to be paid during the pendency off your divorce action. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Pending-divorce-spouse-has-moved-out-and-stop-paying-bills-Should-I-report-to-my-attorney-or-just-wait-until-we-go-to-court/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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Our agreement says no child support, can my ex ask for it anyway?

Can my ex ask for child support? I have a 50/50 custody and no child support divorce agreement, but his mother alienated him against me and now he refuses to visit me. The kid is 16 years old. 

I cannot speak for all jurisdictions, obviously, because 1) I do not know the law in every jurisdiction and 2) I am not licensed to practice law in every jurisdiction, but I can tell you what I know and what I’ve experienced in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah). 

SHORT ANSWER: Possibly. Likely. 

LONG, MORE EXPLANATORY ANSWER: The scenario is as follows: 

  • the court has made a certain child custody and parent-time award 
  • but the child refuses too comply with the court-ordered child custody and parent time schedule, and spends all of his/her time living with one parent and refuses to spend any time in the care and custody of the other parent 

The questions are : 1) can the fact that the child has, in essence, create a de facto sole custody arrangement, and if so, 2) can that de facto sole custody arrangement result in the de facto noncustodial parent being forced to pay child support to the de facto custodial parent, even though that parent’s de facto noncustodial status is in no way that parent’s fault? 

The answer is: 1) yes, it can (it’s not inevitable, but it can happen), and 2) yes, it can (it’s not inevitable, but it can happen).  

Why? Before I address that question, let’s discuss a bit of child support policy. 

  • Some would argue that the purpose of the child support payment obligation is to ensure that each parent has sufficient funds to provide for the child’s financial needs and maintain a lifestyle commensurate with the parents combined earnings.  
    • So if one parent has a lower income than the other parent, the court will order the more affluent parent to pay the other parent some money to help the less affluent parent maintain the lifestyle that the child ostensibly enjoys when in the care and custody of the more affluent parent. It’s not the only way to craft child support policy, but it’s a reasonable way.  
    • Courts that subscribe to this way of thinking then argue that if a child refuses to comply with, say, a joint physical custody award (resulting in only one parent being burdened with fully or primarily having to shelter, feed, clothe, educate, and entertain the child), it would thus be unfair to burden the de facto primary or sole custodial parent with all the financial burdens associated with the child’s needs.  
    • The other parent, so the thinking goes, needs to pay his/her “fair share” of the child’s financial support needs. When children spend time in the care and custody of both parents, then the financial support burdens are divided between both parents. That make sense. That’s patently fair.  
    • When the child spends all of his/her time in the care and custody of just one parent, then it would be unfair for that parent to be solely responsible for the child’s financial support. If courts followed such a policy, then it is feared that as a means of avoiding the financial obligations of child support, parents would fight to ensure that only one parent has sole or primary custody of the child. 

So even when a court-ordered joint custodial parent has, through no fault of his/her own, been rendered a de facto noncustodial parent by the child refusing to comply with the court’s custody order, many courts (many, not all) might react to this situation by 1) modifying the child custody order to reflect the de facto situation; and 2) consequently modifying the child support award.  

Some courts may take a different approach in such a situation, although such an approach is, in my experience less common. That approach would be based on the idea that children don’t have the power to dictate child custody and parent time schedules to the court; therefore, if a child refuses to comply with the court’s child custody and parent time orders, the court is not going to punish the innocent de facto noncustodial parent. But you can see why such an approach leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many people, not leastwise the de facto custodial parent. 

If the parent in the de facto custodial parent position can prove that he/she did not compel or induce the child to refuse to comply with the court’s custody and parent time orders, that parent could certainly argue that he/she is innocent too, and should not be punished for the circumstances created by a noncompliant child.  

Which raises the next question (and brings the discussion full circle): why not have the court compel the child to comply with its child custody and parent time orders? I have addressed that question on Quora.com many times, but most recently in response to these two questions here:  

https://www.quora.com/Teenager-Child-16-refuses-to-see-me-after-spending-a-month-with-my-ex-I-have-50-custody-What-can-I-do-about-it-Im-a-stricter-parent-unlinke-my-ex-who-lets-him-play-computer-games-all-day-and-night 

and here:  

https://www.quora.com/What-will-happen-if-the-court-ruled-in-favor-of-a-mother-to-have-the-custody-of-her-child-but-the-child-refuses-to-go-with-her-and-she-prefers-to-stay-with-the-father 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Can-my-ex-ask-for-child-support-I-have-a-50-50-custody-and-no-child-support-divorce-agreement-but-his-mother-alienated-him-against-me-and-now-he-refuses-to-visit-me-The-kid-is-16-years-old/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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What happens to a child support order if both parents move out of the country?

Unless the child support order provides for a change in the child support obligation or benefit in the event and due to the parents moving out of the country, then the child support order remains unchanged and remains in full force and effect. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/What-happens-to-a-child-support-order-if-both-parents-move-out-of-the-country/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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Can you seek a temporary custody award if you have an apartment but you’re not on the lease, but your fiancé is on the lease and also the child does have their own room?

I get this question frequently. The answer: Sure, you can ask (you can always merely ask) the court to award you temporary custody of the child(ren) under such circumstances, but whether the court will grant your request under such circumstances is a separate question.

Call me old fashioned, but the “my fiancé” term is, in child custody and family law settings, usually followed by words like “of 5 years” or “with whom I have 3 kids,” so if you are in such a situation, then use of “my fiancé” doesn’t give you, your “fiancé” or your circumstances the appearance of greater legitimacy or stability than shacking up. Asserting, “I have an apartment, but I’m not on the lease” means “my residential circumstances are insecure and unstable” and “I can be kicked out of where I currently live at any moment.”

Likewise, claiming “my child(ren) has/have his/her/their own room in someone else’s apartment that I don’t lease” means “my child(ren)’s residential circumstances are insecure and unstable too.”

But if the other parent’s circumstances are even less secure and less stable than yours, living with your boyfriend/girlfriend in his/her apartment at his/her pleasure may lead the court to award you temporary custody in the absence of any better alternative.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a Legal Assistant’s Point of View, Week 1: It’s all new to me

My favorite part of being new at something is that feeling of every aspect being unique and energizing.  

I am experiencing that feeling now in my new job as a legal assistant for Utah Family Law, LC. I have never been a legal assistant before.  

I moved back to Utah in late June after spending a year in Chicago. Much about life in Utah does not feel new to me anymore, but the adventure this time around came about when I needed a place to work.  

I graduated from college in 2020 (Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy). I have been considering going to law school, so I needed a job that would give me experience to help me determine whether it’s a path I want to follow. My particular interest is alternative dispute resolution (ADR), so I started looking for opportunities that were connected to this area of law in any way. 

I did not have an extensive list of connections in the law profession, and I had no idea where to start. I sent out my resumé to some law firms, along with a note explaining how I may want to attend law school and pursue a career in ADR. I did not expect this to work all that quickly (if at all), but by some miracle the next day after I e-mailed Eric Johnson at Utah Family Law, LC.  

Eric and I spoke a few times over the next few days, met for an interview, and he offered me a job as his new legal assistant.  

Eric and I want to share with you an account of my experiences in this job to highlight what I don’t know and what I learn about Utah divorce and family law practice. What confuses and frustrates me. What surprises and disappoints me. What I like about it too.  

This blog post is my first in a series that I will publish each week, tracking with each week since I was hired. That’s right; this first blog post this comes out my first full week on the job. I am a complete neophyte, an innocent looking at this with fresh eyes. Much like many of you who may experience a divorce and family law case. This is why Eric wanted me to share my observations and insights as I go.  

As I stated previously, at the time of my writing this post, I have been working as a legal assistant for just under a week. Already it has been incredibly enlightening (the last time I felt so inundated with new knowledge/out of my depth was when I was learning Hungarian while living in Hungary as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  

In the short span of time I’ve been working here, I have made calls to the Utah Court of Appeals, filed requests for media coverage of public court hearings, and attended a hearing on a motion for temporary orders in a divorce proceeding. 

Now that I think about it, the mission experience and this new legal assistant experience are surprisingly similar. Each requires me to learn a “new language” while I simultaneously complete tasks in that new language. Each demands that I meet new people and establish a relationship right away. I also have needed to rely heavily on the experience of others who are farther down this road, who have more experience and skill, and to be humble and patient in that aspect.  

The most exciting similarity between these two experiences for me is the energy I feel in the work. A mission, while incredibly hard, is an exciting time. The work is exhausting but at the same time fun. Some days more than others, but that is true of everything in life.  

Even being tangentially involved with the practice of law for a week has been immensely rewarding. I feel part of something bigger than myself, which I think is what most of us would like to consider the law to be. The law is supposed to be a noble thing that guides and protects us as citizens. Unfortunately, the law has flaws, but it is still an honor to seek to uphold that ideal and strive to extend that ideal to everyone. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

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“Best interest of the child” and a “material and substantial change of circumstances”

Doyle v. Doyle, 258 P.3d 553 (Utah Ct.App. 2011) 2011 UT 42m ¶ 38, “Even an overwhelming case for the best interest of the child could not compensate for a lack of proof of a change in circumstances. See Becker, 694 P.2d at 611 (rejecting bare best interests argument and stating that “in order to reach the best interests standard and reconsider a custody award, there must be a showing that there has been a change in circumstances that is material to the custody issue”).

It occurs to me that “an overwhelming case for the best interest of the child [justifying a modification of the child custody award]” IS proof of a material and substantial change in circumstances–a change in the circumstances of, if not one or both parents, the circumstances of the child himself/herself.

Harper v. Harper, 480 P.3d 1097, footnote 6 (Utah Ct.App. 2021), 2021 UT App 5:

[6] Unlike an adjudicated custody decree, such as the one in this case, a stipulated custody decree “is not necessarily based on an objective, impartial determination of the best interests of the child, and therefore the res judicata policies underlying the changed-circumstances rule are at a particularly low ebb.” Peeples v. Peeples, 2019 UT App 207, ¶ 15, 456 P.3d 1159 (cleaned up). Thus, “in some cases, a lesser showing of changed circumstances may support modifying a stipulated award than would be required to modify an adjudicated award.” Id. (cleaned up). For the same reasons, in change of custody cases involving a nonlitigated custody decree, the changed-circumstances rule “must not be so inflexible as to categorically foreclose examination of the child’s well-being.” Taylor v. Elison, 2011 UT App 272, ¶ 14, 263 P.3d 448.

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