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Parental Rights and Responsibilities in Utah

If you’re going through a divorce or separation from your child’s other parent, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the most common child custody terms.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities in Utah

Utah law provides three ways to allocate parental rights and responsibilities: “shared parenting,” “sole residential and custodial parent” and, the rarest of the three, “split parenting.”

Shared Parenting

“Shared parenting” is almost always recommended by the court (unless there is some evidence that shared parenting would not be in the best interest of the child). The term “shared parenting” does not refer to a fifty-fifty split in time with your children. (A fifty-fifty split is referred to as “split-parenting” – see below).

Shared parenting simply means that the parents of the minor child will “share” in the major decision-making regarding the child’s health and welfare. In a shared parenting arrangement, decisions regarding things such as discipline, religion, education, sports, piercings, and tattoos will be made by both parents. Shared parenting, therefore, requires that the parents be willing and able to communicate on a regular basis.

In this arrangement, both parents are deemed the “residential parent.” In other words, the child technically lives with both parents, but one parent will be designated the “residential parent for school purposes only.” The designation of “residential parent for school purposes only” simply refers to the parent who resides in the school district where the child is or will be enrolled.

If the parents agree to share parenting, but cannot pick a residential parent for school purposes, the court will make the decision based upon the child’s best interest. (Utah Revised Code §3109.04 lists the many factors used in determining a child’s “best interest.”)

Parenting time (formerly referred to as “visitation”) can be enjoyed according to whatever schedule the parties feel is in the child’s best interest. But if the parents cannot decide on parenting time, the court will make the decision for them based upon the child’s best interest.

Sole Residential and Custodial Parent (“Sole Custody”)

This parenting arrangement is common when the parents will be residing very far apart and when the parents cannot communicate effectively.

Here, only one parent is designated as the “sole residential parent and legal custodian.” This parent will be solely responsible for all major decisions regarding the child’s health and welfare, such as discipline, religion, education, health care, sports, piercings and tattoos. The court will generally allocate the primary parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the child to this parent as well.

If the parties can’t decide who the sole residential parent and legal custodian should be, the court will make the decision based on the child’s best interest.

Split Parenting (“Joint Custody”)

“Split parenting” is a fifty-fifty split of parenting time. This type of parenting plan is not normally ordered by a court. It is most often an arrangement agreed to by the parents. The split parenting plan is drafted to allow both parents equal time with the child. Split parenting may affect child support due to the equal split in parenting time.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506