Child Custody Laws in Utah: An Overview for Parents

Jeremy AtwoodFamily Law

Child making heart with hands child custody law in utah

When parents decide to separate or divorce, their primary concern revolves around safeguarding their children’s interests. Child custody becomes a pivotal issue that directly affects both parents and children. 

It’s important to remember that the responsibility to nurture the children involved is a shared endeavor. Utah child custody laws may dictate where the child resides and the parenting schedule with the other parent. 

In cases of disagreement between the parents, the court determines the best course of action. The verdict is ultimately guided by child custody laws in Utah. 

You can rely on Utah family lawyers for vital legal guidance in this regard. They can help facilitate an amicable child custody resolution, while prioritizing the children’s best interests.

Types of Child Custody in Utah

When going through a separation from your child’s other parent, navigating the complex child custody laws becomes a huge concern. Child custody cases in Utah typically entail meticulous examination, in keeping with each unique family situation. 

There are four primary forms of child custody, which Utah family lawyers can modify to uphold the children’s best interests.

1. Sole Legal/Physical Custody

The sole child custody designates one parent as the custodial authority. This parent has the final say in the vital decisions, while the other parent usually enjoys visitation rights.

2. Joint Legal/Physical custody

As the name implies, this type of child custody allows both parents to collaborate in decision-making. The children frequently divide their time between both parents, with the terms and conditions adapted to individual needs.

3. Joint Legal/Sole Physical Custody

This type of child custody assigns decision-making responsibilities to both parents. However, only one can become the full-time custodial parent. Such an arrangement can go a long way in ensuring stability for school-going children and working parents.

4. Split Custody

This arises when parents opt for distinct custody of different children. It may be ordered when the court deems it in the children’s best interests, granting each parent full decision-making authority over a specific child.

Utah child custody laws are designed to necessitate thoughtful deliberation. Engaging a family law attorney in Utah can help ensure the best possible outcome for your unique circumstances. Child custody cases in Utah can be multifaceted, which is why comprehensive legal support is critical in this domain.

Parenting Plans in Utah

When it comes to deciding on child custody, parents have some options to consider. In many cases, parents can come to a mutual agreement regarding child custody and visitation. But to make this arrangement legally binding, they must outline the specifics in a formal “parenting plan.” 

This written agreement should be signed by both parties and submitted to the court for approval. Typically, Utah judges will support such agreements as long as they prioritize the child’s best interests.

In situations where parents cannot reach a consensus on custody and visitation, they can request a “shared parenting arrangement.” Here, neither parent has sole legal and physical custody. To initiate this process, a proposed parenting plan should be presented to the court, adhering to the state’s guidelines.

These parenting plans should include provisions for dispute resolution mechanisms, such as counseling or mediation, to address future issues. This adds an extra layer of security for both parties and, more importantly, the child. 

An experienced family law attorney in Utah can provide valuable guidance in navigating the complexities of child custody cases. Understanding the types of child custody is a critical step in ensuring the best interests of the child are upheld throughout the legal process.

What Factors Do Judges Consider When Making Their Decision?

When divorcing parents cannot agree on custody or visitation rights, the responsibility falls to a judge to decide. This process is governed by the child custody laws in Utah, which emphasize the child’s best interests. When adjudicating child custody cases in Utah, judges consider several key factors:

Firstly, they assess which parent has been the primary caretaker. Here, they take into account past parenting arrangements that have fostered the child’s happiness and stability within their home, school, and community. 

The child’s bond with each parent is also evaluated, as is each parent’s ability to meet the child’s developmental needs and their willingness to co-parent effectively.

Utah family lawyers emphasize the importance of past conduct, moral character, emotional stability, and financial responsibility. They scrutinize the duration and intensity of each parent’s desire for custody. Moreover, any history of substance abuse hindering a parent’s ability to fulfill their role is considered.

Factors such as religious compatibility, sibling relationships, and the child’s interaction with extended family members are also weighed. Additionally, any evidence of domestic violence, neglect, or abuse on either parent’s part is a critical element in the decision-making process.

Consulting a family law attorney in Utah is essential for individuals seeking guidance in these matters. 

Modification of Custody Orders

As families grow and evolve, the shifting dynamics between parents and children can necessitate adjustments to their established parenting plans. 

Consider a scenario where a teenager has valid reasons for wanting to reside with the noncustodial parent, potentially stemming from persistent conflicts with the custodial parent’s new spouse and their children.

However, modifying the parenting schedule unilaterally is not permitted without court endorsement. In Utah, making alterations to existing child custody arrangements or visitation orders mandates the submission of a formal motion to the court. This written request is the first step in seeking a modification, whether or not agreed upon by both parents. If both parties concur, their written agreement is subject to approval by a judge.

In the absence of mutual consent, a judge will be responsible for deciding whether to grant the requested modification. The essential criteria for a successful change in Utah child custody orders include demonstrating a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since the last custody order issuance and establishing that the proposed changes are in the child’s best interests.

According to the Utah State Courts website, instances of material and substantial changes include parental remarriage, relocation to new communities, or a child’s need to change schools. 

In such cases, it’s worth consulting with an experienced Utah family lawyer as they are well-versed in child custody laws in Utah.


Child custody cases in Utah can often prove stressful and challenging for families. It’s best to engage an experienced Utah child custody attorney to protect your family’s interests and attain the best possible resolution. 

At Jeremy Atwood Law, we specialize in resolving Utah child custody cases effectively, prioritizing family security and trust. Our Utah family lawyer strives to make the child custody process less daunting and more positive. Call (801) 682-5234 or fill out our confidential online form to book a free 15-minute consultation.