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Utah law states, “It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children.” But what does that really mean? What rights do parents actually have when it comes to raising their children? Believe it or not, parents are—with few exceptions—allowed to raise their children in the manner they see fit. However, issues may arise when there are concerns about a child’s physical, mental, or emotional safety. If a parent’s conduct does not meet a certain standard, their children could be removed from the home in order to protect the children.

When the Child Is in Danger

For the most part, courts do not remove children from their home, or their parent’s custody, unless the child is in danger of harm through abuse and/or neglect. This may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. However, it’s unlikely that children will be removed from the home unless it can be proven that the child’s in danger of being harmed. It’s important to note that Utah does not take preventative measures. This means that the state will not intervene when there has been no harm. Instead, the state will get involved after it’s been shown that the child is in danger, and/or has been harmed. For example, if a parent has a personality disorder that could lead them to abuse the children, the state will not remove the children from the parent’s custody in order to prevent abuse that hasn’t occurred.

Educational Decisions

Parents have the right to make educational decisions for their children. Parents are allowed to choose which schools their children will attend and, in some states, they may be able to choose to homeschool their children. Different states have different standards for what children need to learn while they’re being homeschooled. As long as parents are meeting those standards, they are allowed to teach their children whatever they see fit. Different states also have different laws regarding the youngest possible age a child can drop out of high-school. Parents are not required to keep their children in school beyond the minimum age. However, if parents aren’t homeschooling their child, and they’re not making their child attend school, the child may be considered truant if they’re under the state’s minimum age required to drop out of school. Parents can face civil and possibly criminal consequences for truancy.

Medical Decisions

Parents have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of the child. In cases where a child needs a life saving procedure that the parents do not want the child to undergo, an emergency protective order may be placed in order to ensure the child gets the life-saving medical procedure they need. In cases where a procedure is elective, such as wisdom tooth extraction (in certain cases), it is unlikely that the parents will be legally ordered to have the child undergo the procedure. It’s also unlikely that the parents would lose custody of the child over refusal to have an elective procedure performed.

Religious and Ideological Views

Parents are able to choose which religious and ideological views to raise their children with. This does include views that are verifiably false, such as the idea of a flat earth. Unless a parent’s views cause harm to the child, there’s not much a court can do. Furthermore, it may be difficult to prove the child is being harmed by a parent’s ideas if the aforementioned ideas are not causing the child physical, mental, or emotional harm. If parents want to raise their children in a religious sect that is extremely isolated from society, the parents have the right to do that, assuming that the child is not experiencing emotional abuse or neglect.

When You Need an Attorney to Advocate for You

If you have concerns about a child you know, or you have concerns about DCFS involvement in your life, you need a family law attorney that can give you legal advice that’s customized to your specific situation. When the state gets involved in custody issues, it can be a long and arduous process—and can seem as though there is no end in sight. Acting sooner rather than later is of paramount importance when the state intervenes in your life. If you’re involved in a DCFS case and you need someone to advocate for your rights and your best interests, contact CoilLaw today for an initial consultation.   


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