Utah Code 30-3-32: Parent-Time — Intent — Policy — Definitions
1. It is the intent of the Legislature to promote parent-time at a level consistent with all parties’ interests.
2. (a) A court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and the parent who experiences domestic or family violence.
(b) Absent a showing by a preponderance of evidence of real harm or substantiated potential harm to the child:
I. it is in the best interests of the child of divorcing, divorced, or adjudicated parents to have frequent, meaningful, and continuing access to each parent following separation or divorce;
II. each divorcing, separating, or adjudicated parent is entitled to and responsible for frequent, meaningful, and continuing access with the parent’s child consistent with the child’s best interests; and
III. It is in the best interests of the child to have both parents actively involved in parenting the child.
(c) An order issued by a court pursuant to Title 78B, Chapter 7, Part 1, Cohabitant Abuse Act, shall be considered evidence of real harm or substantiated potential harm to the child.
3. For purposes of Sections 30-3-32 through 30-3-37:
(a) “Child” means the child or children of divorcing, separating, or adjudicated parents.
(b) Subject to Subsection (5), “Christmas school vacation” means:
I. for a single child, the time period beginning on the evening the child is released from school for the Christmas or winter school break and ending the evening before the child returns to school; and
II. for multiple children when the children’s school schedules differ, the time period beginning on the first evening all children’s schools are released for the Christmas or winter school break and ending the evening before any of the children returns to school.
(c) “Extended parent-time” means a period of parent-time other than a weekend, holiday as provided in Subsections 30-3-35(2)(f) and (2)(g), religious holidays as provided in Subsections 30-3-33(3) and (17), and “Christmas school vacation.”
(d) “Supervised parent-time” means parent-time that requires the noncustodial parent to be accompanied during parent-time by an individual approved by the court.
(e) “Surrogate care” means care by any individual other than the parent of the child.
(f) “Uninterrupted time” means parent-time exercised by one parent without interruption at any time by the presence of the other parent.
(g) “Virtual parent-time” means parent-time facilitated by tools such as telephone, email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and other wired or wireless technologies over the Internet or other communication media to supplement in-person visits between a noncustodial parent and a child or between a child and the custodial parent when the child is staying with the noncustodial parent. Virtual parent-time is designed to supplement, not replace, in-person parent-time.
(h) If a parent relocates because of an act of domestic violence or family violence by the other parent, the court shall make specific findings and orders with regards to the application of Section 30-3-37.
(i) A Christmas school vacation shall be divided equally as required by Section 30-3-35.
Parents who come to court about child custody and parenting time (also called “visitation”) face decisions about parenting plans for their children. This section gives you information about parenting after separation or divorce. It helps you understand what your children may be going through and what they may need to adjust to the changes in their lives. It also gives you information to make a parenting plan for you, your children’s other parent, and your children that is based on the best interest of your children.
Children and Separation or Divorce
When parents separate or get a divorce, their children are affected in many different ways. Get information to help you understand what your children may be going through so you can help them cope with your separation. You know your children best and you can use the information provided here to help them and come up with a parenting plan that is in their best interests.
A parenting plan, also called a “custody and visitation agreement” or a “time-share plan,” is the parent’s written agreement about how much time the child will spend with each parent, and how the parents will make decisions about the child’s welfare and education. Learn what you should think about when deciding on a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child, what should be in your parenting plan, and how to write up your parenting plan.
Children are entitled to financial and emotional support from both parents.
The public child support system strives to ensure children receive financial support through their role in establishing and collecting child support orders for the children they serve. Ensuring children receive emotional support is more complicated. Research suggests that one way to address the emotional support and well-being of children is through frequent and continuous contact with both parents. This can be achieved through parenting time arrangements established for children born to unmarried parents or upon the divorce or separation of parents who were married. It is often noted that the more time a noncustodial parent spends with their child, the more child support will be paid. A 2011 Census Bureau report showed custodial parents with joint-custody/parenting time arrangements received full child support payments over half of the time, while just 30.7 percent of custodial parents received full child support payment when there was no contact between the child and the noncustodial parent. This intersection of child support and parenting time is a complicated one that affects a large number of children and families.
In 2011, 23.4 million children under the age of 21 lived with just one parent and in 2014; approximately 40 percent of births were to unmarried mothers. While many states allow for child support to be adjusted based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child, most child support orders established by the public child support system do not include a corresponding parenting time order or arrangement. In fact, nearly 7 of 10 parents involved with the public child support program do not have an official parenting time order. The primary reason for this disconnect is that Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which governs the public child support enforcement system, does not allow expenditure of federal funds for the establishment or negotiation of parenting time arrangements. With the passage of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 (PL113-183) Congress specifically addressed the issue of parenting time with the following Findings and Sense of Congress (§303):
The Congress finds as follows:
• the separation of a child from a parent does not end the financial or other responsibilities of the parent toward the child, and
• increased parental access and visitation not only improve parent-child relationships and outcomes for children, but also have been demonstrated to result in improved child support collections, which creates a double win for children, a more engaged parent and improved financial security.
The Act also expresses the sense of the Congress that:
• establishing parenting time arrangements when obtaining child support orders is an important goal which should be accompanied by strong family violence safeguards, and
• states should use existing funding sources to support the establishment of parenting time arrangements.
In addition to the lack of funding for services to establish parenting time orders, the court process and the marital status of the parents can have major impacts on whether parents establish official parenting time orders. States have addressed this issue in varying ways, through state legislation as well as using federal grants to establish programs aimed at increasing parental engagement and parenting time orders.
Married vs. Unmarried Parents
When a married couple is ending their relationship, the state is generally responsible for formalizing the dissolution of that relationship. When a married couple with children gets divorced, state family law statutes have procedures for determining child support and parenting time as part of a unified court process. States may require mediation, parent education classes, or development of specific parenting plans as part of the divorce process all based upon the presumption that both the mother and the father will continue to have ongoing contact and time with their children. In general, only in unusual or extreme situations (e.g. abuse or neglect, domestic violence) is the presumption of ongoing contact overcome. Conversely, unmarried parents do not require the state to end their relationship. And unlike divorcing couples, state family law varies widely in its presumptions related to the parenting rights of unmarried fathers. Unmarried parents needing assistance with paternity establishment and child support can, at little or no cost, receive assistance from the state child support agency, but there is no similar resource available to assist unmarried parents with establishing parenting time arrangements.
In addition, unmarried parents generally must navigate an entirely different court process than the one through which they received a child support order. This can be costly, confusing and time consuming. The different family law processes specific to unmarried parents frequently begin at birth. Married fathers are automatically presumed to be the child’s father while unmarried fathers must sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or prove their legal standing as a father some other way. In addition, state laws give married fathers equal custodial and decision-making rights as mothers (because it is assumed that married parents live together). This is not the case with unmarried parents. In fact, in 14 states (Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin), when a child is born to unmarried parents, even though the father signs a paternity acknowledgment form, the mom is automatically given sole custody. In the other 36 states, unmarried fathers who sign a paternity acknowledgment form are given the same legal presumptions to custody as married fathers. Many states have attempted to address the disparate treatment of unmarried fathers by granting those fathers, once they have legally established paternity, with similar rights and responsibilities as married fathers. Most recently, Nevada enacted 2015 Assembly Bill 263 which specifically expands the applicability of the custody and visitation laws to all children regardless of whether they were born to parents who were married or unmarried. The bill defaults the custody arrangement to joint legal and physical custody until or unless a court orders otherwise.
States that address child support and parenting time together do so in various ways. The majority of states provide an adjustment in their child support guidelines for parenting time. Some states provide limited assistance to parents interested in parenting time orders through court-based self-help services or family law facilitators, and a few states provide methods for addressing both child support and parenting time in the same order, or at the same time.
Child Support Guideline Adjustments for Parenting Time
Approximately 36 states and D.C. have an adjustment in the child support guidelines for parenting time. This means that if the parents have established a parenting time order, the amount of time that each parent spends with the child will impact the amount of child support he or she pays or receives. Many jurisdictions will allow parents to informally agree on the amount of time the child spends with each parent to facilitate determination of child support obligations, but these informal agreements are not legally enforceable orders.
In Utah, there are minimum schedules for parenting time based on whether the child is under 5 years of age or between the ages of 5 and 18 As with most parenting-time laws, these schedules are applicable in the case of divorce, and do not necessarily apply to unmarried parents. These minimum parenting time schedules have the potential to provide the type of consistency that the Texas standard possession order affords parents, allowing them to rely on predictable parent-time orders if they are not able to come up with an agreement otherwise. During the 2015 legislative session, Utah enacted an optional schedule for parenting-time for children 5 to 18 years of age and includes a provision for child support adjustments based on this schedule. The bill states that any child support calculation should be consistent with the rules regarding joint physical custody in the child support guidelines.
Promote Parenting Time
Some states, through federal grants, have developed resources to address child support and parenting time issues simultaneously.
The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) administers an Access and Visitation program which provides total pool of $10 million in formula grants to states each year. The grants are designed to facilitate noncustodial parents’ access to and visitation with their children. States are permitted to use the grant funds for:
• Development of parenting plans
• Visitation enforcement, including supervised visitation and neutral drop-off and pick-up; and/or
• Development of guidelines for visitation and alternative custody arrangements
Some states have used these grant funds to facilitate parenting time orders for unmarried parents going through the child support process, but these efforts have generally been small scale and limited in scope. According to the Access and Visitation Grant Program, the programs saw the following results:
• Noncustodial fathers and custodial mothers comprised the highest percentage of participants, 36 and 34 percent respectively.
• Parent education was the most utilized service at 41 percent, follow by mediation at 24 percent.
• Nearly two-thirds of participants were referred by either a court or child support agency.
• More than half of participants had never been married to one another
• Nearly half of participants earn less than $20,000, with over a quarter earning less than $10,000.
• 49 percent of participants were white, while the other half belong to a minority group
• Participation in the AV program increased parenting time for 62 percent of noncustodial fathers and 47 percent of noncustodial mothers.
Terms Used In Utah Code 30-3-32
• Evidence: Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.
Utah Divorce Lawyer
When you need a Utah Divorce Lawyer, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
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