S.B. 122 (4th Substitute) passed by the Utah State Legislature March 5, 2021!
Who should care and why?
- The elephant in the room is this: if there is no gender bias/sexual discrimination that is preventing fit, able, worthy fathers from being awarded joint equal physical custody, then why A) did so many people (not only a huge number of men, but women who sympathize with these men and with the plight of men in child custody disputes generally) and B) the overwhelming majority of Utah legislators pass a law to address and, it is hoped, eliminate that bias.
- If you are a parent (particularly a father) who is worried about having child custody or parent time reduced to minimal levels in your divorce or other kind of child custody case, then for the sake of your children and your relationship with them, you need to know what S. B. 122 means for you and your children.
What will S.B. 122’s passage into law do? It will make it easier to make a case for an award of joint equal physical custody of children. Again, this is especially important to fathers who have historically faced a strong culture of bias and prejudice in the legal system.
Finally! But all is not total sunshine and roses—read on to learn why.
Bottom line: This new joint equal custody option is better than what we had in the past and should make it easier to win a joint equal custody award, but we’re still going to run into parents and commissioners and judges who simply cannot accept the idea of joint equal physical custody. So get your hands on as much proof (proof, as opposed to mere evidence; meaning: objective, independently verifiable facts) as you possibly can to satisfy § 30-3-35.2 factors if you hope to get joint equal physical custody awarded.
- amends Utah Code § 30-3-34 to provide for a new “parent-time” schedule option that, if implemented, would result in the children spending equal periods of time annually with each parent.
- creates a new code section, § 30-3-35.2, which, if the court orders its application in a child custody case, would result in the parents sharing overnights with the children equally on an annual basis.
- Amends § 78B-12-208 to provide for how child support is calculated under a § 30-3-35.2 equal custody schedule.
Portions of the changes S.B. 122 bring to the child custody scene are highlighted (in some cases “lowlighted”) in red text because they are important to know about.
NEWLY CREATED § 30-3-35.2 READS AS FOLLOWS:
30-3-35.2. Equal parent-time schedule.
(1) (a) A court may order the equal parent-time schedule described in this section if the court determines that:
(i) the equal parent-time schedule is in the child’s best interest;
(ii) each parent has been actively involved in the child’s life; and
(iii) each parent can effectively facilitate the equal parent-time schedule.
(b) To determine whether each parent has been actively involved in the child’s life, the court shall consider:
(i) each parent’s demonstrated responsibility in caring for the child;
(ii) each parent’s involvement in child care;
(iii) each parent’s presence or volunteer efforts in the child’s school and at extracurricular activities;
(iv) each parent’s assistance with the child’s homework;
(v) each parent’s involvement in preparation of meals, bath time, and bedtime for the child;
(vi) each parent’s bond with the child; and
(vii) any other factor the court considers relevant.
(c) To determine whether each parent can effectively facilitate the equal parent-time schedule, the court shall consider:
(i) the geographic distance between the residence of each parent and the distance between each residence and the child’s school;
(ii) each parent’s ability to assist with the child’s after school care;
(iii) the health of the child and each parent, consistent with Subsection 30-3-10(6);
(iv) the flexibility of each parent’s employment or other schedule;
(v) each parent’s ability to provide appropriate playtime with the child;
(vi) each parent’s history and ability to implement a flexible schedule for the child;
(vii) physical facilities of each parent’s residence; and
(viii) any other factor the court considers relevant.
(2) (a) If the parties agree to or the court orders the equal parent-time schedule described in this section, a parenting plan in accordance with Sections 30-3-10.7 through 30-3-10.10 shall be filed with an order incorporating the equal parent-time schedule.
(b) An order under this section shall result in 182 overnights per year for one parent, and 183 overnights per year for the other parent.
(c) Under the equal parent-time schedule, neither parent is considered to have the child the majority of the time for the purposes of Subsection 30-3-10.3(4) or 30-3-10.9(5)(c)(ii).
(d) Child support for the equal parent-time schedule shall be consistent with Section 78B-12-208.
(e) (i) A court shall determine which parent receives 182 overnights and which parent receives 183 overnights for parent-time.
(ii) For the purpose of calculating child support under Section 78B-12-208, the amount of time to be spent with the parent who has the lower gross monthly income is considered 183 overnights, regardless of whether the parent receives 182 overnights or 183 overnights under Subsection (2)(e)(i).
(3) (a) Unless the parents agree otherwise and subject to a holiday, the equal parent-time schedule is as follows:
(i) one parent shall exercise parent time starting Monday morning and ending Wednesday morning;
(ii) the other parent shall exercise parent-time starting Wednesday morning and ending Friday morning; and
(iii) each parent shall alternate weeks exercising parent-time starting Friday morning and ending Monday morning.
(b) The child exchange shall take place:
(i) at the time the child’s school begins; or
(ii) if school is not in session, at 9 a.m.
(4) (a) The parents may create a holiday schedule.
(b) If the parents are unable to create a holiday schedule under Subsection (4)(a), the court shall:
(5) (a) Each year, a parent may designate two consecutive weeks to exercise uninterrupted parent-time during the summer when school is not in session.
(b) (i) One parent may make a designation at any time and the other parent may make a designation after May 1.
(ii) A parent shall make a designation at least 30 days before the day on which the designated two-week period beings.
(c) The court shall designate which parent may make the earlier designation described in Subsection (5)(b)(i) for an even numbered year with the other parent allowed to make the earlier designation in an odd numbered year.
(d) The two consecutive weeks described in Subsection (5)(a) take precedence over all holidays except for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
THE AMENDMENTS TO § 30-3-34 ARE:
30-3-34. Parent-time — Best interests — Rebuttable presumption.
(1) If the parties are unable to agree on a parent-time schedule, the court may:
(a) establish a parent-time schedule [consistent with the best interests of the child.]; or
(b) order a parent-time schedule described in Section 30-3-35, 30-3-35.1, 30-3-35.2, or 30-3-35.5.
(2) The advisory guidelines as provided in Section 30-3-33 and the parent-time
33 schedule as provided in Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5 shall be [presumed to be in the best interests of the child unless the court determines that Section 30-3-35.1 should apply. The parent-time schedule shall be] considered the minimum parent-time to which the noncustodial parent and the child shall be entitled [unless a parent can establish otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence that more or less parent-time should be awarded based upon one or more of the following criteria:].
(3) A court may consider the following when ordering a parent-time schedule:
(a) whether parent-time would endanger the child’s physical health or mental health, or significantly impair the child’s emotional development;
(5) A court may not order a parent-time schedule unless the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that the parent-time schedule is in the best interest of the child.
NEWLY AMENDED § 78B-12-208 READS AS FOLLOWS:
78B-12-208.Joint physical custody — Obligation calculations.
In cases of joint physical custody, the base child support award shall be determined as
(1) Combine the adjusted gross incomes of the parents and determine the base combined child support obligation using the base combined child support obligation table.
(2) Calculate each parent’s proportionate share of the base combined child support obligation by multiplying the base combined child support obligation by each parent’s percentage of combined adjusted gross income. The amounts so calculated are the base child support obligation due from each parent for support of the children.
(3) (3) [If] Subject to Subsection 30-3-35.2(2)(e)(ii), if the obligor’s time with the children exceeds 110 overnights, the obligation shall be calculated further as follows:
(a) if the amount of time to be spent with the children is between 110 and 131 overnights, multiply the number of overnights over 110 by .0027, then multiply the result by the base combined child support obligation, and then subtract the result from the obligor’s payment as determined by Subsection (2) to arrive at the obligor’s payment; or
(b) if the amount of time to be spent with the children is 131 overnights or more, multiply the number of overnights over 130 by .0084, then multiply the result by the base combined child support obligation, and then subtract the result from the obligor’s payment as determined in Subsection (3)(a) to arrive at the obligor’s payment.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277Tags: § 30-3-35.2, §30-3-35.2. Equal parent-time schedule, 30-3-35.2, ability to assist, actively involved, after school care, assistance with homework, bath time, bedtime for the child, caring for the child, child's life, child's school, child’s best interest, demonstrated responsibility, distance, each parent, effectively facilitate, equal, equal custody, equal parent-time, equal parent-time schedule, extracurricular activities, factors, flexibility of employment, geographic distance, health of each parent, health of parent, health of the child, history and ability to implement a flexible schedule for the child, involvement in child care, joint custody, joint equal custody, meal preparation, parent's bond with the child, physical facilities of each parent's residence, presence, provide appropriate playtime, relevant, residence, s.b. 122, Subsection 30-3-10(6), Utah code, volunteer efforts