Custody and visitation are often difficult issues in a divorce and, on occasion, can become highly contentious. Access to and responsibility for the care of minor children are emotional, as well as legal, concerns. Primary residence, physical care and parenting schedules must all be resolved. Furthermore, until the children are emancipated, custody and visitation remain subject to review and modification under Utah law, in order to assure that parenting arrangements continue to serve the children’s best interests. Thus, for example, a future planned move from the area by a custodial parent can engender litigation by the non-custodial parent to forestall the children’s removal from Utah.
As between parents, there is no presumption or inference of law favoring either as the custodial parent. Custody may be awarded solely to one parent or jointly to both. Joint custody can be a shared legal custody, where both parents retain joint responsibility for care and decision-making, although the children may reside primarily with only one parent; joint physical custody, where the parents share physical and custodial care of the children; or some combination of joint legal and physical custody. The court is required by statute to assure minor children frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and to encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. In making custody and visitation determinations, Utah courts are required to consider certain statutory factors. In all such cases, priority is given to the best interests of the children, not the best interests of the parents.
Our attorneys are experienced in negotiating and resolving custody disputes and in litigating such matters when circumstances require.
In Utah, both parents owe a duty of support to their minor children. Child support awards are largely governed by statute. The Code of Utah contains a schedule of basic child support obligations based upon the combined gross incomes of the parents, giving consideration to expenditures for work-related child care, children’s health care coverage and extraordinary medical and dental expenses of the children. The court may deviate from the scheduled child support amount in order to give effect to special circumstances or needs in a particular case.
Temporary alimony, sometimes referred to as spousal support or separate maintenance, may be awarded by the court while a suit is pending or until the parties enter into a final settlement agreement or the court enters a final alimony award at the conclusion of the case. Provisions governing initial permanent alimony awards are contained in the Code of Utah. Alimony awards may be “rehabilitative” or “permanent” and payable in periodic payments for a defined or indefinite duration, in a lump sum or in some combination of payments. Fault leading to the dissolution of the marriage will be taken into account by the court in determining whether to award alimony.
Spousal support paid pursuant to a written agreement between the parties cannot be terminated or modified by the court, except in accordance with the terms of the agreement, but child support, whether set by the court or agreed to between the parties, can be modified by the court until the duty of support is terminated. Failure to pay support is punishable as contempt of court and can result in fine and/or imprisonment of the delinquent obligor, as well as the imposition of other penalties and sanctions. Modification and enforcement of support awards often require future negotiation or litigation.
Our attorneys have a wealth of experience and can advise their clients as to an appropriate course of action in all matters pertaining to support.
Unlike so-called “community property” states, division of marital property and apportionment of marital debts are governed in Utah by “equitable distribution” standards. Although both spouses have rights and interests in marital property, regardless of whose name appears on the title, “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal.” Property division in Utah often involves complex issues of classification and valuation, including asset tracing, transmutation and waste. In addition to assets such as the marital home, bank accounts and automobiles, there may be marital pensions, deferred compensation and stock options to be divided. Rules governing the division of pensions and stock options, particularly, are highly complex, requiring an attorney’s adept understanding of the law and applicable accounting, tax and business principles.
Our attorneys have years of experience in discovering, negotiating and litigating complex property issues to assist its clients and the court to achieve an equitable apportionment of the assets of the marriage.
It is important to protect your safety, and your rights, when dealing with matters of domestic violence. When allegations of domestic abuse are introduced in a divorce proceeding, the legal issues can become more complicated. It is extremely important to retain the services of a lawyer who understands the issues and who can protect your interests.
In Utah, Protective Orders can protect you and others in your family or home:
- Preliminary Protective Order (lasts 20 days or until a hearing)
- Protective Order (may last up to 2 years or until otherwise dismissed by the Court)
Being subject to a Protective Order can have devastating effects on the Respondent’s life, including granting no visitation and/or custody of minor children. A Protective Order can also limit employment opportunities and cause termination in some circumstances.
If one spouse takes out a Protective Order against the other for abuse or stalking, usually the spouse against whom the allegations are made will be forced to leave the house. If a Protective Order is issued against you, you may not be able to have contact with your spouse or children for a time period determined by the Court, depending on the outcome of the Protective Order hearing.
Whether you want a Protective Order to protect yourself or your family, or you need assistance in defending a Protective Order, you should consult an attorney to assist you in making sense of the law and explaining your options in detail. Domestic violence allegations can have severe, immediate, and long term implications for families. If the alleged abuse happened during the middle of a divorce or the alleged victim decided to file for divorce as a consequence of the abuse, the court can take the alleged abuse into consideration when determining child custody and distribution of marital assets.