Parent-time, or what has been previously known as visitation rights, is the legal right granted by the court to a non-custodial mother or father to visit their son or daughter during allotted times. In Utah, state law provides a minimum amount of time the non-custodial parent can visit with a child depending on certain age standards. If both parents agree on joint physical or joint legal custody, they must determine and plan an appropriate parenting plan which determines the non-custodial parent’s visitation availability and scheduling. This plan is filed to the court which then determines if the visitation arrangement is appropriate for the child’s best interests. The court may determine a schedule that they deem appropriate overriding the parental desires in favor of the child’s best interests. Rules regarding standard parent-time schedules can be found here:
Parent-Time in Utah
Recently, the Utah legislature elected to use the more appropriate term “Parent-time” over “Visitiation,” in regards to parental access to children as they deemed it less suitable to consider parents as “visitors” to their children. While Utah has made improvements to how it governs parent-time to ensure that it is more equitable and works well for both parents, there are some elements that are inherently unfair and self-defeating. To ensure that your parent-time isn’t determined impulsively by the courts, you need to be aware of various elements such as:
- provisions of the Utah Code;
- how that code has been interpreted and construed by the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals;
- the evidence and expert testimony the courts may find persuasive; and
- the type of custody is determined for the children (see child custody here [add link]).
If parents agree on joint legal or joint physical custody of a child, then they may determine what parental time is suitable for the child and submit it to the court. The court will then determine if this plan is appropriate for the well-being of the child.
If sole custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent is awarded parent-time with the children by the court. Standard or default parent-time allows for weekly access for at least three hours, alternating holidays, at least half of summer vacation, and alternating overnight weekend visits for children five and older. Again, though, this can be adjusted by the court as deemed in the child’s best interest by the court.
If a non-custodial parent is found to poses some danger to the child, or has a history of violence, physical or sexual abuse, then the court may restrict the amount of access that parent has with that child. In some circumstances, the court may order supervised visitation in which the non-custodial parent must be accompanied by court-ordered social worker, officer or adult.
A parent-time order can be modified by the court if it is in the best interest of the child to do so. Modifying parent-time can be complex and difficult, particularly if the jurisdiction of the order is in another state or if the child and custodial parent reside in another state.
The modification of parent-time will only be determined for the best interest of the child. A non-custodial parent is still allowed access to their son or daughter if he/she is in default of child support. Additionally, if a custodial parent withholds access of a child to the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent still has an obligation to provide child support. The courts view any withholding of child support or visitation as a result of seemingly malevolent actions of a custodial parent or non-custodial parent is ultimately detrimental to the child.
There are many more nuances to child access and parent-time. Be certain to contact an attorney with the expertise to navigate the complicated laws and regulations that govern parent-time as well as how these regulations differ from state to state.