The Probate and Family Court always used to call the time children spend with a parent they do not live with “visitation.” In July 2015, the Court changed the words they use on their forms to “parenting time.” The Court says that “parenting time” is the time that children spend with the parent they do not live with. The Court still uses the word “visitation” for supervised visitation and grandparent visitation. Parenting time and visitation decisions can be part of a larger case, like divorce cases, or the case can just be about parenting time or visitation.
How do judges make parenting time and visitation decisions?
Judges make these decisions based on “the best interests of the child.” The “best interests of the child” requires courts to focus on your child’s needs.
Parenting time schedules
Often you and the court decide on a parenting time schedule. An example of a parenting time schedule is:
• every other weekend from Friday at 6:00 P.M. through Sunday at 3:00 P.M. and
• on alternating weekends on Saturday from 9:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. and
• once a week after school on Wednesdays from 3:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M.
This is just an example of a parenting time schedule. Your schedule should be based on the needs of your child and the daily schedule of each parent.
“Reasonable” parenting time
If parents can communicate easily, sometimes you will not need a parenting time schedule. Instead your parenting time can be flexible and you can arrange visits between yourselves. This is called “reasonable parenting time.” If communication between you and the other parent is not good, it is almost always best to have a detailed parenting time schedule so you do not have to be in constant contact to try and agree about the schedule.
Transportation for parenting time or visitation
The law does not say which parent must provide transportation for parenting time or visitation. So, you need to come up with an agreement about transportation. If you cannot agree, the Court can make an order that says who is responsible for transportation in your case.
Sometimes, it may not be safe to leave your child alone with a parent during visitation. In these situations, the court can order supervised visitation. Supervised visitation means another person stays with the visiting parent during visits. It is the supervisor’s job to make sure that your child is safe and feels safe. The supervisor also makes sure that the visiting parent acts appropriately. The court prefers to order a supervisor that both parents can agree on. The court also thinks it is important for your child to be comfortable with the supervisor. Generally, the supervisor can stop the visit if he or she believes your child is not safe during the visit. Supervised visitation is important if the visiting parent is abusive, has an alcohol, drug abuse, or other problem that could put your child in danger.
Parenting time and visitation when one parent has abused the other
If there has been violence between you, often it is not safe to have contact with each other during parenting time or visitation. Sometimes abusive parents use parenting time or visitation to continue to have contact with and control the other parent. Your child may be at risk during visits with a parent who has been abusive to you. In those situations, think about supervised visits.
You can make visitation safer for yourself and your child by thinking about:
A clear schedule
A clear schedule makes a parent-child relationship possible so you do not have to be in constant contact with each other. A good way to avoid contact with an abusive parent during parenting time or visitation is to have someone else pick up and drop off your child for parenting time or visits. That person should be someone that both of you trust and agree on. Or, if visits are supervised, one parent can drop off the child and leave before the other parent arrives. Even with a schedule, there will be times you must communicate with each other. It is often best not to have to communicate directly. You can choose someone you both trust to contact the other parent if either of you needs to change plans. This arrangement allows you to deal with changes and not have to be in direct contact with the other parent.
If the court has decided that one of the parents is an abusive parent, the court must provide for the safety and well-being of your child and the safety of the abused parent in visitation orders.
The court may order:
• drop off and pick up of your child in a safe place or in the presence of an appropriate person;
• visitation supervised by an appropriate person, visitation center, or agency;
• the abusive parent to attend and complete a certified batterer’s treatment program to have visitation;
• the abusive parent not to possess or use alcohol or controlled substances during visitation or 24 hours before;
• the abusive parent to pay for supervised visitation;
• no overnight visitation;
• the abusive parent to get bond for the return and safety of your child;
• investigation or appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney for your child;
• anything else necessary for your safety and the safety and well-being of your child.
Can my child visit with the other parent if I get a restraining order?
A restraining order can meet your safety needs and still allow for visits with your children. For example, if you want your children to visit with the other parent or have contact with the other parent, you can ask the judge to order that the “no contact” part of the restraining order apply to you but not to your children. Talk to a lawyer or a domestic violence advocate about getting a restraining order that can keep you safe and still allow your children to have visits or contact with their other parent. If a restraining order allows the abusive parent to have contact with your children, this is not the same thing as giving the abusive parent visitation rights. Courts are not supposed to give visitation rights to a defendant in a restraining order case.
No parenting time or visitation
In rare situations, it may be in your child’s best interest not to have any contact with one parent. An example is when a parent has abused your child and even in a supervised visit your child would be traumatized by seeing that parent. Orders denying one parent any parenting time or visitation are rare. But a court can order it to protect your child from more harm.
Parenting time, visitation, and child support – What is the connection?
• Who do not pay child support can still have parenting time or visitation.
• Who do not have parenting time or visitation can still be ordered to pay child support.
If a parent
• pays child support, they do not automatically have parenting time or visitation.
• has parenting time or visitation, they do not automatically have to pay child support.
If a parent does not
• pay child support, they can still have parenting time or visitation.
• have parenting time or visitation, the court can still order them to pay child support.
What Happens When A Parent Withholds Parenting Time In Utah?
Parents who have had their Utah custody orders entered into a court of law or do not have the right to withhold parenting time from the noncustodial parent. Both parents must obey the order of the court. Even if child support is not being paid or being paid irregularly, custodial parents do not have the right to withhold parenting time. Likewise, a parent may not withhold child support payments because they are being denied parenting time. Sharing custody is never an easy process. If you are facing custody issues in Utah, contact child custody attorney now to determine your best course of action moving forward. Some ways that you can work out your custody issue include getting a show cause order in the case, seeking a modified order, working with a parent coordinator, or undergoing a custody evaluation.
Enforcement of Parent Time And Child Custody Orders
When one party does not follow the order of parent time or child custody issued by a Utah judge, then the other parent can file a Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause) that asks the court to enforce its previously entered order. This enforcement order can also include a request for extra parent time. It is possible that the court will hold the non-compliant party in contempt of court, subjecting them to the payment of fines or even a jail sentence.
Modifying A Custody Order
Sometimes custody arrangements just don’t work as intended, usually due to changes that have occurred since the order was entered. Either parent can ask the court to modify a previous custody or parenting time order provided there is a valid reason to do so. The court requires that parents have a substantial material change in their circumstances since the issuance of the original order before requesting modification. The modification must also be in the best interest of the child(ren).
Working With a Parent Coordinator
The Utah courts sometimes help parents resolve conflicts regarding parenting issue and custody problem by appointing a parent coordinator. This person is a mental health professional who has a background in child development. It is the job of the parent coordinator to provide advice for parents to help them resolve their differences and establish a more workable parenting plan. Parents are not under obligation to accept the suggestions of the parent coordinator, and all discussions with the coordinator are held in confidence.
Either parent can request a professional custody evaluation through the court. This evaluation looks at the custody issues being experienced and determines whether or not the current custody arrangement still makes sense for all involved
What must the custodial parent prove for the optional schedule to apply?
First, the noncustodial parent must establish that he or she has been involved in the child’s life. Second, he or she must show an ability to communicate with the other parent regarding the child Third, that the noncustodial parent must be able to accommodate the extra time. Fourth, the noncustodial parent must show that the extra time would be in the child’s best interest. Finally, the noncustodial parent can raise any other good reasons. Parents will want to show that they have had responsibility for the child in the past. Also, document any homework or extracurricular activity involvement. Meals, bath time, and bedtime are key activities, as are bonding and other similar activities.
Understanding the Difference between Child Custody and Parenting Time
A divorce is more than two people separating; it is the disintegration of a family’s structure. Legal separations get messy when there are children involved. Unless it is an extreme case of abuse, it is unfair to separate the child/ children from the parent because the adults have issues. Proper parenting starts with the combined effort of both parents. Custody and parenting hours are two terms that pop up during divorce settlement. Custody is the responsibility and the rights the parents have among them to support and care for their children. When custody is decided, visitation hours are also specified. Visitation is the how’s and when’s of a parent visiting a child.
In general, there are two types of custody-
• Legal custody which permits the parent to decide the best for the child like welfare, education and healthcare
• Physical custody where the choice to live with which parent is made.
Both can be joint custody when the parents come together as a team to make decisions that is in the child’s best interest. Alternatively, one parent can take sole responsibility for the child. The legal responsibilities include residence, religion, child care, school, sports, travel etc.
Parenting schedule orders
Visitation or parenting time is the plan which the parents devise to distribute time between themselves with the child. When a parent is allotted less than half time with the child, visitation hours are allotted. The frequency of visitation is case specific.
There are four variations of visitation:
• Scheduled visits– Think of this as a time table like the one most of us had in school. There is a specific pre-determined schedule. The flexibility of the hours depends on the equation and understanding between the parents. This schedule ensures that there is no conflict or confusion in the visitation hours.
• Reasonable visits: These are open ended and there is no specific time which is allotted to each parent.
• Supervised visits: When the child’s safety and wellbeing is in question, all visits are supervised either by the other parent, or an adult chosen by the parent or a professional agency.
• No visits: In extreme cases, if any visit from a parent is stressful or unsafe for the child, the parent does not receive visitation rights.
Parent Time Attorney
When you need a parent time lawyer in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506