Tag: family

How does filing for divorce affect relationships with family members and friends who don’t agree with the decision? Do people tend to choose sides?

How does filing for divorce affect relationships with family members and friends who don’t agree with the decision? Poorly, generally. That should come as no surprise.

Do people tend to choose sides? Yes. That should come as no surprise.

Decent people will generally be polite and courteous toward you at best, a little detached and standoffish at worst. Immature and petty people will behave worse than that, to varying degrees. Some may betray you, abandon you, and break your heart.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , ,

Is it a good idea to major in sociology, social work, community, and health? I want to become a family lawyer.

Family law is, for most lawyers, a miserable practice area. You have to have the right personality and constitution for it. If you want to be a family lawyer to “help families,” be prepared for a mostly frustrating (highly frustrating) career. If you want to be a family lawyer to help protect people from the family court system, you will also experience a mostly frustrating career, but not as much as for those who go into family law with the intention of “helping families”—family law is not the best place to expend one’s time, effort, and care, if helping families is your goal. Better to be an excellent pastor, teacher, coach, therapist, social worker (good luck being an excellent social worker if you’re employed by the government—you’ll need it), or something like that. Don’t get me wrong; the world needs good family lawyers, but family lawyers do little to preserve and protect families (and those who try rarely succeed). Family lawyers are there either to victimize through the legal system or to protect people from being victimized by or in the system.

OK, now on to your question. This just my opinion, but I submit it is an educated one:

Law school is intellectually demanding in terms of difficulty, intensity, and volume. Sociology, social work, other areas of study like them are generally and comparatively intellectually lightweight (notice I stated “generally”; there are surely some exceptions, I concede). While it is not impossible for a sociology or social work majors to succeed in law school, I would suggest you major in something that will better equip you for the rigors of law school. English, Philosophy (both the fun and the hard stuff), or hard sciences—disciplines that develop your ability to think, to analyze, and to synthesize. And take classes that teach you to research and write well.

Sociology, social work, and public health treat some of the subjects that family law treats, but not as much as you might believe. In my personal opinion, the sociological, social work, and public health evidence that the courts consider isn’t very reliable or consistent or even all that accurate. You can find a “study” to support any position. Which is a shame because it tars the truly scientific and accurate studies with the broad brush of hackery characteristic of so much of the rubbish.

One thing that might be of extreme value, however, would be to major in sociology or social work in the most intellectually and scientifically rigorous program you can get into, get a master’s degree in it, then go to law school, and then become a family lawyer who stays apprised of and specializes as an expert in the science that is relevant to family law issues. That would be a hard, expensive, time-consuming pathway to becoming a family lawyer, but you’d be one of the best as a result.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , ,

What are your thoughts on a second marriage?

My answer comes from the perspective of a divorce lawyer who’s been in practice for 26 years. Note that I believe in marriage. Although I am a divorce lawyer myself, I am not divorced, and God willing, I never will be. I would like nothing better than for everyone to be so happily married that I need to find another line of work. I support and advocate for marriage. And under the right circumstances, I believe in remarriage. While there are plenty of fun, satisfying, and fulfilling things one can and should do as an unmarried person, my life would be comparatively empty without my wife, my children, and the incomparable joys of being a husband and father. For all the people who tell you how glad they are to be unmarried and childless, few really mean it.  

If you found your first marriage to be difficult, the odds are that a second marriage will be harder than your first. This is not always the case, but it usually is. This is not to say that if your first marriage failed you should not want or try to remarry to seek and enjoy the blessings of marriage for yourself and to be a blessing to your spouse. If, however, you caused your first divorce or even struggled in your first marriage because of your own demons, you’ve likely got some serious character and personality flaws to correct before you can remarry successfully. Resolving your personal issues and correcting course not insurmountable, but it is unavoidable, if you want a second marriage to work. But take heart: it can be done, it’s worth doing.  

I was once asked what I believe the three main causes of divorce are. I answered that question with this: While there are many reasons one may need or feel the need to divorce, the “top 3” reasons are, in my experience: 1. Broken trust (whether that is caused by infidelity or hiding a substance abuse problem or failing to “pull one’s own weight” in the marriage relationship, etc.); 2. Placing self-interest ahead of fostering the marriage partnership (which usually takes the form of expecting your spouse to be perfect and to be solely or primarily responsible for your happiness); and 3. Immaturity and/or some kind of mental health disorder.  

Thus, while nobody can ensure a marriage never ends in divorce it is crucial to your marriage (whether it’s your first or second) that you and your spouse be and want to be trustworthy, be devoted, be responsible, be sober, and that you care and want to for your individual and your spouse’s mental and physical health. If you or your prospective spouse feel that’s asking too much, don’t marry for the second (or even for the first) time.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Who do you pick between a present father and an absentee mother?

Who do you pick, your father who has been there your whole life or your mother who was never there until now and wants custody of you? 

Assuming that 1) custody of you must be awarded to one parent or the other; and 2) your father didn’t obtain/exercise custody over you by withholding shared custody from your mother (because your mother was an absentee parent by choice), the answer is obvious: your father. 

Why? At the very least, he’s proven to be the consistent, dependable parent. 

As much as you may ache for your mother’s love, her track record shows that odds are she’s a bad bet as a custodial parent. Odds are she’ll break your heart again, if you let her. 

But this does not appear to be a zero-sum kind of problem. Why not have the court award custody to your father and then award your mother visitation with you on as liberal a basis as is safe and beneficial for you? 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What can I do if my ex won’t stop taking me to court?!

My ex has been taking me to court for over 4 years to get my joint custody taken away. Her father worked for the courts for 25 years so she hasn’t had to get a lawyer and it’s obviously harassment but they still allow it. What can I do? 

This question comes up a lot (in slightly different forms, but the core question, i.e., “At what point will the courts say ‘enough’ to my ex’s incessant litigating (typically over child custody and/or parent-time)?” remains the same). 

Because I am a divorce and family lawyer in the state of Utah, I will answer your question in the context of the law and rules governing the state of Utah. 

There are many approaches that one can take in response to an ex-spouse or coparent who litigates incessantly and for no good reason. One thing that I didn’t know about as an attorney until late in my career was a motion to have your ex-spouse found to be and then treated as a vexatious litigant under Rule 83 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Here is an excerpt from that rule: 

Rule 83.  

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 83. Vexatious litigants. 

(a) Definitions. 

(1) The court may find a person to be a “vexatious litigant” if the person, with or without legal representation, including an attorney acting pro se, does any of the following: 

(A) In the immediately preceding seven years, the person has filed at least five claims for relief, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined against the person, and the person does not have within that time at least two claims, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined in that person’s favor. 

(B) After a claim for relief or an issue of fact or law in the claim has been finally determined, the person two or more additional times re-litigates or attempts to re-litigate the claim, the issue of fact or law, or the validity of the determination against the same party in whose favor the claim or issue was determined. 

(C) In any action, the person three or more times does any one or any combination of the following: 

(i) files unmeritorious pleadings or other papers, 

(ii) files pleadings or other papers that contain redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter, 

(iii) conducts unnecessary discovery or discovery that is not proportional to what is at stake in the litigation, or 

(iv) engages in tactics that are frivolous or solely for the purpose of harassment or delay. 

(D) The person purports to represent or to use the procedures of a court other than a court of the United States, a court created by the Constitution of the United States or by Congress under the authority of the Constitution of the United States, a tribal court recognized by the United States, a court created by a state or territory of the United States, or a court created by a foreign nation recognized by the United States. 


(b) Vexatious litigant orders. The court may, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, enter an order requiring a vexatious litigant to: 

(1) furnish security to assure payment of the moving party’s reasonable expenses, costs and, if authorized, attorney fees incurred in a pending action; 

(2) obtain legal counsel before proceeding in a pending action; 

(3) obtain legal counsel before filing any future claim for relief; 

(4) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any paper, pleading, or motion in a pending action; 

(5) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any future claim for relief in any court; or 

(6) take any other action reasonably necessary to curb the vexatious litigant’s abusive conduct. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Are financial interrogatories relevant in my contempt case? 

Are financial interrogatories relevant in my contempt case against my sister for violating my visitation order? 

While I’m sure something seeming like an argument could be made for their relevance, it’s hard to imagine such an argument or to imagine that such an argument would hold any water. 

A fact is relevant if it: (a) has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action. 

Unless your sister can show that your income, financial obligations, and business and/or personal expenses are somehow more or less likely to prove the allegations that you violated a visitation order, inquiries into your facts pertaining to your finances are clearly not relevant.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Should I get sole custody of my children if the dad does not want custody?

Should I get sole custody of my children if their dad does not want to be involved with them? Or try to talk it out before I go through with it?

Your children deserve a loving, salutary relationship with both of their parents, so it is morally right to urge and encourage the father in this situation to love and care for his children. Yes, have that talk with the father. It’s pointless, however, to nag or try to guilt a father into loving and caring for his children when he doesn’t want to love and care for his own children. And it’s plain irresponsible and wrong to try to involve a father in his children’s lives if that father is a danger to the children, whether physically or emotionally/psychologically.  

But where a father is not abusive, not a danger to the life or health of his own children, it’s not a bad idea to leave the door open. One day Dad might wake up and want to walk through it for the children’s benefit. Leaving open the possibility does not, of course, mean that the children will be receptive to repairing (or in some cases forming) their relationship with their father, but why slam that door and nail it shut if you must not? Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Don’t needlessly deprive the children of an opportunity to bond with their father.  

That stated, this does not mean that you must ask the court for a joint child custody award. “Leaving the door open” does not require you treat Dad like an involved parent when he’s not. If Dad’s not around, not interacting with the children, not playing with them, bathing, feeding them, etc., not financially supporting the children, then there’s no good reason to act as though he is when the child custody awards are made. There’s no reason to “leave the door open” in a way that sets the kids up to have their hopes dashed and their hearts broken. If an absentee parent (father or mother) says that he or she recognizes the error of that absentee parent’s ways and wants to make amends, there must needs be a price to be paid by that parent. There will be hard words to hear from the other parent and child. He or she should expect caution and hesitancy, even skepticism, from the children and the other parent. There will be hard work and sacrifice ahead as well (and not just for Dad). Easier said than done. I get it. But if the children are willing to give Dad a second chance and he’s proven he can and wants to make good, it would be tragic and frankly inexcusable to deny the children that. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

How can I make sure father won’t gain custody?

My husband cheated on me and we’re getting a divorce. He begged me not to take his children away, but I want him to suffer. How can I make sure that he won’t gain custody or even visitation rights? 

Surely you jest. Right? 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My estranged father keeps asking me for money, what do I do?

My parents are divorced, my father has no savings, he didn’t work for the entire period of their marriage, we were estranged for a while and now we are back, but now he keeps asking me for money, what do I do? 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I fully acknowledge that is easier said than done, but that doesn’t excuse any of us from doing the right thing.  

If your father is a moocher, he has not right to mooch and you have no obligation to enable him in his mooching, just as you have no right to mooch. 

If your father is in real need and you have the ability to help him, help him. He is your father, and we are commanded by God to honor our parents, and that commandment is not qualified to apply only to good parents. I can’t claim to understand why this is (just as I can’t always understand the “reason” behind every one of God’s commandments in every situation), but I believe it. Honoring our parents does not mean turning a blind eye to their faults and misconduct. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Can a parent with full custody deny visitation due to unsanitary conditions?

Can a parent with full custody refuse to allow visitation due to unsanitary living conditions?

Good question.

I will answer this question in the context of some applicable law for the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah).

There are many ways to approach this question, but briefly one thing you need to be aware of are the custodial interference laws.

Under the custodial interference laws (76-5-303. Custodial interference), A parent can refuse to comply with a child custody and/or parent time order under certain circumstances:

(a) the action is consented to by the person whose custody or visitation of the child was interfered with; or


(i) the action is based on a reasonable belief that the action is necessary to protect a child from abuse, including sexual abuse; and

(ii) before engaging in the action, the person reports the person’s intention to engage in the action, and the basis for the belief described in Subsection (6)(b)(i), to the Division of Child and Family Services or law enforcement.

See also 76-5-305. Defenses:

(a) the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that:

(i) the conduct was necessary to protect any person from imminent bodily injury or death; or

(ii) the detention or restraint was authorized by law; or

(b) the alleged victim is younger than 18 years of age or is mentally incompetent, and the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that the custodian, guardian, legal guardian, custodial parent, or person acting in loco parentis to the victim would, if present, have consented to the actor’s conduct.

There is no hard and fast rule you could apply in this situation, of course, but I think it’s reasonable to say that if the living conditions that the other parent’s house were so unsanitary as to pose a serious risk of harm to the child’s life or health, refusing to comply with parent time on that basis might not result in criminal guilt.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can a 16-year-old child choose not to have visitation with a parent?

Technically, no. Practicably/pragmatically, yes. 

Technically, a minor child (even a child of 16 years of age) does not have the legal right to choose whether he or she will comply with the parent time “visitation” scheduling orders that a court issues in a divorce or child custody case. But the courts find it difficult to enforce these parent time schedule orders as to the children. In other words, if a child won’t comply with the court’s parent time orders, usually courts do one of two things. Some courts “find” that they don’t have the power to compel a child to comply. This is not true, but by making such a finding that it has no power to coerce and compel a child to comply, the court is able to wash its hands of dealing with the enforcement question. More honestly, other courts find that using the powers of the state, such as arrest and incarceration, to coerce and compel a child to comply with its parent time orders does more harm than good, is more trouble than it’s worth. And it’s not like the parents have any realistic options to enforce parent time orders either. If a parent were to bar the door to his or her home to a child to compel that child to go spend parent time with the other parent, that child could simply dial 911 and report the parent for child abuse and neglect. So in short, if a 16-year-old child doesn’t want to comply with the court’s parent time schedule orders, that child will probably get his or her wish. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So I want to ask my dad to divorce my mom.

So I want to ask my dad to divorce my mom. She has a troublesome personality, to say. I’m currently 16 and the relationship between not just me and my mother, but also the one between her and my father, is not good in the slightest. Should I ask him? 

Before answering this question myself, I looked at the other answers that have already been provided because I was expecting at least one of them to be along the lines of, “Whether your parents divorce is their choice, and thus none of your business.” And indeed I did. 

It’s a comforting, and thus attempting, position to adopt. But it’s utterly false. 

Given that you are now 16 years old and have, according to you, lived a life in the company of two enemies who happen to be spouses clearly makes your parents’ marriage and the possibility of divorce “your business.” 

Being 16 years old, you are at a unique point in your life where you are starting to think and act more like an adult, but you are still a child. Unless you are unusually mature and wise for your age, there are still many things about adulthood and marriage and family life you don’t completely understand, so you need to respect your parents’ history and experience and thinking on the subject of divorce, if their positions on the subject differ from your own. At the same time, however, given that you have been living in a dysfunctional family for 16 years, your experience, observations, desires, and opinions clearly have weight as well. 

If you determine that you have, in fairness and objectivity, determined in your own mind that your parents would be better off divorced, and you can persuasively articulate why, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t have not only good reason, but the right as well, to argue the case for divorce to your parents. 

If your parents refused to divorce, and you cannot bear to spend another moment of an acrimony-filled existence at home, another option you might consider would be having your parents permit you to leave their custody to live with grandparents or an aunt or uncle or older sibling who might be willing to take you in, if such an option exists. Depending upon the circumstances, that could be done on an informal basis without having to go through a guardianship proceeding, or it may require court action. 

Finally, and as I mentioned before, if you happen to be mature and wise beyond your years, if you are able to support yourself financially (meaning that you can earn enough income to house, feed, and close yourself without contribution from your parents or the government), you might have the option of petitioning a court to declare you legally emancipated before you turn 18 years of age. 

Either way, if your parents don’t want to divorce and you can stand being enmeshed in their dysfunctional marriage another moment, living away from them could be the right thing for you, if circumstances are conducive to it. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Can you go back to your ex-spouse after a divorce?

Yes, there is no law (I know of in any jurisdiction of which I am aware, but check in your jurisdiction to be sure) against a divorced couple resuming a romantic relationship or from remarrying. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What are the primary concerns in determining parenting issues? Why?

What are the primary concerns of the courts in determining parenting issues? Why? 

In Utah (and in no particular order), the court must consider the factors articulated in these sections of the Utah Code when making a legal and physical custody award: 

  1. § 30-3-10. Custody of a child — Custody factors. 
  2. § 30-3-10.2. Joint custody order — Factors for court determination — Public assistance. 
  3. § 30-3-34. Parent-time — Best interests — Rebuttable presumption. 
  4. § 30-3-35.1. Optional schedule for parent-time for children 5 to 18 years of age. 
  5. § 30-3-35.2. Equal parent-time schedule. 

If I were to create a list of all factors from the above-referenced Utah Code sections, this answer would be too long, which is why I have provided hyperlinks to the Code sections for your review.  

CONCERN FOR FATHERS. What do fathers encounter far too often (not always, but far too often): “How can I rule against the father’s request for an award of joint equal legal and physical custody without my ruling appearing to be contrary to the facts, contrary to the best interest of the children and the irrational, biased or arbitrary, inequitable, discriminatory, unconstitutional thing that it is?” 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

True or false: Better to divorce than have a miserable life.

This blog post is in response to this question: 

I don’t think it’s bad to get a divorce. I think it’s more unhealthy to have miserable lives.

— Ginger Wynn.

What are your thoughts on this statement? 

This statement tries to express a valid point, but it does so in a logically confused way. 

The statement “I don’t think it’s bad to get a divorce. I think it’s more unhealthy to have miserable lives” falsely presumes that divorce will cure or prevent what makes a dysfunctional (or worse) marriage dysfunctional.  

Sometimes a marriage is so toxic and harmful as to require termination. In such cases divorce is not only justified, but necessary.  

Sometimes the trouble one or both spouses is suffering in a marriage can be remedied by divorce.  

Sometimes the trouble a marriage is causing one or both spouses can be remedied by divorce.  

But not always.  

Sometimes the solution is “mend it, don’t end it”; more often than you’d think the cure for dysfunction and discord in a marriage is staying married and working on improving the marriage, not destroying it.  

Far too often I see people divorce in the false belief that their spouses/their marriages are making them miserable only to learn, after the damage is done, that their spouses/their marriages are not the cause(s) of their troubles. They realize that divorcing only compounds their suffering. They consequently become even more miserable.  

So here is what I submit is a more accurate statement: It is not bad to get a divorce when you truly have no better alternative.  

Don’t divorce unless divorce you need to. Know that “mend it, don’t end it” is not the answer before you seek a divorce.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What is the proper way to request a change of the child custody order?

What is the proper language to request a change of the child custody order in family law court?

What you want to accomplish is not the kind of thing that you have good odds of accomplishing successfully on your own, as a non-lawyer. Indeed, the odds are against you doing this correctly. 

Seeking a modification of a child custody order is a matter of much more than merely finding “the right words” (although being clear and accurate in one’s choice of words in legal documents is crucial). The “proper language” to use to seek a modification of an existing child custody order is not a matter of a few sentences or paragraphs, and there is no such thing as one and only one particular way to phrase a request for a modification of the child custody award and to phrase the arguments for why that should occur. 

My guess is that you either don’t have enough money to retain the services of an attorney to help you or don’t want to spend the money on an attorney’s help, but this is a situation in which not getting a good attorney’s assistance could be the difference between success and failure. 

Many people who are not experienced lawyers have somewhat strange, often incredibly oversimplified, and erroneous beliefs about the way the law and the courts function.  

Many people are afraid to consult with lawyers for fear that the lawyers will try to charge them extortionate amounts of money. I sympathize. There are many lawyers who do just that (I am a lawyer, so I know). But if you will shop around extensively, you can find a good lawyer who delivers value for what he or she charges you. When you find such a lawyer, it some of the best money you’ll ever spend. People who represent themselves in court and who don’t know what they’re doing don’t get do overs for the mistakes they make. 

Many people believe that if what they want makes all the sense in the world to them, then it will make all the sense in the world to the courts. In my experience, just the opposite is true. What often make sense to people unfamiliar with the legal system is not the way the legal system functions. This is not to say that everything in the legal system is nonsensical, but a lot of what people believe the law is or should be is not the way the law is or works. 

Bottom line, consult with an attorney. Find out what you need to do, find out how much it will cost, then find a way to afford it. It’s far less expensive in the long run than the risks you run in trying to do it yourself. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 49

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

What is the one thing that would help decrease divorce in the United States?  

I honestly think that commitment to marriage as more than a legal institution would lead to less divorce. As society has begun to view marriage as merely a legal construct, we have begun to value marriage less and less. As we decrease the value of marriage we also decrease the importance of family. One peculiar instance of this phenomenon in action is the morals behind two recent Disney movies, Turning Red  and Encanto (before I go further, I will say that I liked one of these movies and did not like the other one). Each of these movies tells the story of a girl growing up in a highly structured culture in her family. Each movie seeks to deconstruct the family culture the main character is born into, and each of them champion the value of overcoming family tradition and culture to “truly be oneself”. The interesting thing about each of these movies is the idea that the individual is more important than the family unit. Now, to be clear, there are family dynamics that are unhealthy that need to be fixed, but the hyper focus on the individual clearly undermines the necessity of sacrifice inherent in marriage and family relationships. We do give up part of ourselves in order to be one with others, and that is not always a bad thing. Spencer Kimball put it so well: “In serving others, we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives. Furthermore, the more we serve our fellowmen . . . the more substance there is to our souls. [I]ndeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!” Placing the needs and success of the family ahead of our own is, one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Healthier and happier marriages make healthier and happier individuals. And healthier, happier people make up the best families. Not to put to fine a point on it: you need a family, and your family needs you.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Is the percentage of married people getting a divorce still about 50%?

Is the percentage of married people getting a divorce still about 50%, or is it now higher?

It’s actually a bit less than 50% currently and for the past few years. This is likely not because fewer people are divorcing as it is because fewer people are marrying in the first place. 

Addendum: I’ve seen claims that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in divorce filings. That makes sense, but I haven’t seen it personally. That may be due to the bulk of the spike consisting of divorcing couples handling their divorces without a lawyer. I don’t know, but that makes sense too. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

What should the child support award be if my ex makes $1,200 per week?

Should I be receiving more than $300 a month in child support if my ex-husband makes $1,200 per week? 

Each jurisdiction has different child support laws and rules, but I can answer this question in the context of Utah law, because I practice divorce and family law in that state: 

Your question is how do I know if I am receiving the correct amount of child support from the child support obligor parent. “Obligor” means the person who is obligated to do something, in this case a child support to the child support recipient, who is also known as the child support “obligee”. 

In the past, Utah’s law left how child support was calculated to what the parties and/or the courts felt was appropriate. As you can imagine, however, leaving something so contentious as child support so wide open led to a tremendous amount of child support litigation. In response, the Utah State Legislature created a presumptive statutory formula for calculating child support.  

Now let me walk you through what the statutory guidelines for child support calculation in Utah are, and how they apply. I have provided links to the code sections that I cite at the end of this post.  

Utah Code § 78B-12-210 is entitled “Application of guidelines—Use of ordered child support.” For the average family and their children, the guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in establishing or modifying the amount of temporary or permanent child support. That means the amount of the child support award resulting from application of the guidelines, and the use of worksheets consistent with those guidelines, are presumed to be correct and binding upon the parents. This presumption can be rebutted and child support award be lower than what the guidelines provide, but only where the court is convinced that use of the guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate, or not in the best interest of a child in a particular case. Deviating downward from the guidelines rarely occurs.  

Utah Code § 78B-12-205, entitled “Calculation of obligations” provides that, except for parents whose monthly adjusted gross incomes are $1,050 or less, each parent’s child support obligation is established in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. Utah Code § 78B-12-204 defines “adjusted gross income” is the amount calculated by subtracting from gross income alimony previously ordered and paid and child support previously ordered. The guidelines do not reduce the total child support award by adjusting the gross incomes of the parents for alimony ordered in the pending proceeding. In establishing alimony, the guidelines do not provide for your alimony obligation to be deducted from your gross income. So if you are not paying alimony or child support to a previous spouse (not your current spouse) or to children in addition to the ones who are the subject of your current child support case, your child support obligation will be calculated based upon your gross monthly income. Gross monthly income means before tax income.  

Some people get angry when they hear that child support is based upon gross before tax income. Remember, the statutory guidelines don’t treat you as though you don’t pay taxes. The child support calculation formula takes the fact that you have to pay taxes into account.  

So if your ex-husband makes $1,200 per week, if that’s a gross amount he is paid, then that means he earns $5,200 per month. Child support is based upon both what your husband earns and what you earn. There is a child support calculator provided by the State of Utah free of charge. I’ve included a link to that calculator at the end of this post too. Here is how filling out the child support worksheet works: 

You need to know how much both your ex-husband’s and your adjusted gross monthly incomes are. You need to know how many minor children will be included in the child support calculation, and you need to know how many overnights the minor children spend with each parent.  

So assume for our purposes that your ex-husband’s gross monthly income is $1,257 per month. $1,257 is equal to earning minimum wage on a full-time, 40-hour per week basis, so it would be almost impossible to calculate child support on anything less than $1,257 per month. We would also plug your gross monthly income into the calculator. So let’s use $1,257 for you too. If you are not disabled and can work full-time, even if you are unemployed currently, you cannot have your income be less than $1,257 per month because it’s assumed that anyone can earn minimum wage.  

Let’s also assume that you have three minor children and that you have them in your custody 220 overnights annually and your ex-husband has than 145 overnights annually.  

Now we have all the information we need to fill out the calculator, so will fill it in now in the appropriate blanks, then will click the “Continue” button to generate the child support worksheet. As you can see, your ex-husband’s child support obligation for three minor children would be $260 per month. As you can see, the child support calculator is pretty clear and straightforward, and now you know the basics of how child support is calculated, you can figure out for yourself what child or will be in your case by following the instructions on the child support worksheet calculator. You can even calculate different scenarios to find out what child support would be depending upon differences in income and in number of overnights each parent spends with the children on an annual basis. 

Office of Recovery Services Child Support Calculator  - ( 

Utah Code Part 78B-12-2 

Utah Code Part 78B-12-3  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Click to listen highlighted text!