Legal Custody is the decision-making process regarding your children’s major issues. A few years ago, the legislature made it so that the default is that both parties would have Joint Legal Custody. This means that you would create what’s called a Parenting Plan, which is basically a road map of how you are going to co-parent your children and helps to spell out major decisions regarding the children. Major decisions include these four issues: religion, education, medical, and sometimes extracurricular activities. Other than that, the court says whoever has physical custody of the children can make those more minor decisions regarding the children. The parenting plan will also lay out a step-by-step procedure of what you do if you cannot come to an agreement with the co-parent about major decisions.
Defining the Difference between Legal and Physical Custody
Joint Legal Custody is a rebuttable presumption. Therefore, if you believe it’s not in your children’s best interest for your spouse to have Joint Legal Custody, you can argue that to the court. You will have to show actual evidence to why this is not in your children’s best interest.
Physical Custody is literally how many overnights you have your children per year. In Utah, to have Joint Physical Custody, you only have to have 111 overnights per years. This is not close to equal but still allows you to have Joint Physical Custody. When the court is determining who should be the Custodial Parent (or the parent with more overnights and/or where the children should go to school) they look at who has been the primary caretaker of the children. Primary Caretaker means the person who primarily cares for the children (e.g. gives them baths, cooks them dinner, helps with homework, and attends Parent Teacher Conferences). Technically both parents can be primary caretakers, but the court ends up determining the parent who spends the most time with their children. Unfortunately, the statute does not consider a parent who must work to earn financially for the family and therefore, it may seem that the primary caregiver is always given to the Mother. However, there are myriad ways that the court can determine parent time for a parent. Therefore, it is important to know the different parent time schedules that could and would work best for you and your children.
Getting Help with Your Utah Divorce Case
If you are looking into a divorce and have questions about custody of your children or need legal help, we’re here for you. You need to ensure you consult with a competent family law attorney that understands the legalities of divorce in Utah and will help put your mind at ease so you don’t get taken advantage of. At CoilLaw, LLC, Salt Lake City Divorce attorney Jill Coil knows how to advise you during a divorce to help you achieve the best settlement and/or result possible. At CoilLaw we are ready and available to help you through your legal action. If you need legal advice concerning a Utah family law issue, call Jill Coil at CoilLaw LLC in Utah at (801) 781-5848 today.