How can I get Custody of my Children in Utah? (A General Overview)

An important factor Utah courts consider in deciding whether you will be granted custody of your children in your Utah divorce, paternity, or parentage case is your involvement in your children’s lives. Hopefully long before you and your spouse contemplated divorce, you were intimately involved in your children’s lives. Moving forward, it is especially important that you are very involved. Try to attend as many of your children’s sporting events, church events, and extracurricular activities as possible. Take care of your children’s health by taking them to doctor and dentist appointments, and in every way, try to care for their needs. Spend quality time with your children as frequently as possible. Take some photos of your family activities, so as to document your level of involvement in your children’s lives. You are personally aware of your involvement in the life of your child, but the court needs to believe it too.

When a Utah court decides what the custody of the children will look like in any given case, the decision is always based on the "best interests" of the children. To determine the best interests of the children, a Utah court is required by statute to consider 14 factors, which are:

  1. The past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each of the parties;
  2. Which parent is most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent;
  3. The extent of bonding between the parent and child, meaning the depth, quality and nature of the relationship between the parent and child;
  4. Whether the parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to the child;
  5. Whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal or joint physical custody;
  6. The ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest;
  7. Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
  8. Whether both parents participate in raising the child before the divorce;
  9. The geographical proximity of the homes of the parents;
  10. The preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to the joint legal or physical custody;
  11. The maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents;
  12. The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly;
  13. Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse or kidnapping;
  14. Any other factors the court finds relevant.

See UCA 30-3-10(1)(a) and UCA 30-3-10.2(2).

If you want custody of your children, really take these factors into consideration. Get involved in your children’s lives. Be nice and considerate in your communications with the other parent. Many of the 14 factors deal with the parents’ ability to co-parent and to encourage the relationship between the other parent and the children. In all your communications, be considerate, kind, professional, and encourage a positive relationship between the children and their other parent. 

To learn more about child custody, visit our Child Custody in Utah page. To schedule a free consultation to see if we can help you with this or other family law issues, call us at (801) 772-4419.