Non-Custodial Parenting in Utah

In Utah, both of a child’s parents have specific rights, including spending time with their children through custody or visitation. Even if you are a non-custodial parent, you are still legally entitled to have an active relationship with your child. What that looks like will vary based on your situation and the custody agreement you have in place. However, knowing your rights means you know what to fight for before the court finalizes the agreement and what to demand or accept once the agreement is in place. Let’s look at some specifics of being a non-custodial parent in Utah.

Custodial vs. Non-Custodial Parent

The custodial parent is the one who primarily cares for the child, in the case of sole physical custody or, a majority of the time, in the case of primary physical custody. The other parent is the non-custodial parent. They will likely still have some time with their child through visitation. That could include everything from short, supervised visits to longer stretches where the child stays with them for weeks or months. Except in unhealthy situations like neglect or abuse, it is rare for the court to deny a parent any custody or visitation rights.

There is a difference between physical and legal custody. Physical custody is about where the child lives. Legal custody determines how parents are allowed to make significant decisions about the child’s life, including education and medical decisions. While the court can grant sole custody to one parent, they typically create a parenting plan that outlines shared physical and legal custody based on the child’s best interest.

Establishing Your Rights

While the law outlines the basics of all parents’ rights, it is somewhat general. How the court applies that law to your relationship with your child depends on many factors. That’s one reason it is vital to work with a custody attorney in Salt Lake or your part of Utah. They will work to ensure that even if you are a non-custodial parent, you receive terms that are favorable to you and that allow you to nurture your relationship with your child. Having someone who understands the law and will fight diligently for your rights can mean the difference between rarely seeing your child and having no say in significant decisions about their life and playing an active, meaningful role.

Custody Agreement

If you have a custody agreement, it will outline many of the specifics of your custody situation. Details like days and times of visitation, holiday schedules, drop-off locations, and medical decision-making may be covered. It may even address educational decisions, travel limitations, or other specifics. Once the judge approves your custody agreement, that becomes the ruling document for your co-parenting situation. If one parent is unhappy with the other, they can not use those feelings as an excuse to ignore the agreement. Even if one parent fails to meet their obligations–for example, if they miss or are late on a support payment–the other parent can not retaliate by withholding visitation or access to the child.

The best time to fight for the conditions that will allow you to foster a meaningful, healthy relationship with your child is before a custody agreement is issued. You must demonstrate to the court what is in the best interests of both yourself and your child so they can consider that when ruling on your case. Understanding how Utah’s laws treat custody can help you do that. Once an agreement is formalized, it can be difficult, though not impossible, to change or to add more time with your child. That makes it critical to have sound legal counsel in your custody battle.

If you feel you are likely to end up as a non-custodial parent, that doesn’t mean you have to accept the terms offered by your co-parent. There are many ways for a non-custodial parent to maintain a strong relationship with their child. Your lawyer can help you understand your options and rights.

Visitation

Visitation is the time a non-custodial parent spends with their child. Utah law states a minimum time each parent should be granted with the child, based on the child’s age. When parents can not agree on a schedule, the court will decide, keeping these legal minimums in mind. The judge will consider factors like who already plays the more significant daily role in the child’s life, schedules, availability, both parents’ ability to co-parent peacefully, and even the child’s preferences.

One thing that can not be used to make the decision is gender. Utah law explicitly forbids making custody arrangements based on the parents’ genders. Being the mother or father will not give you a legal advantage or make you less likely to spend significant time with your child.

Co-parenting is challenging, and for a non-custodial parent, it can feel like you have less opportunity to build a strong relationship with your child. Your custody order should protect your rights and outline your specific access to your child. If you feel that the agreement is no longer in your child’s best interest or damages your bond with your child, consider consulting a child custody lawyer to see about amending the order. As a non-custodial parent, you still have rights.

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