I am Emy Cordano, a family law attorney based in Salt Lake City. I concentrate my practice on divorce and family law matters; I am not a general practice lawyer. Family law is all I do. Here you’ll find additional articles and advice that I make available to anyone facing family law issues.
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SALT LAKE CITY – Divorce in itself can be challenging, but add kids to the mix and a lot of those challenges become emotionally charged – especially when it comes to custody.
Questions such as who gets the kids, when the other parent gets to see them, and how much time the children will spend with each parent are typically answered by a judge. But all too often, parents don’t follow the determined guidelines.
Many Utah dads claim to be the victims of so-called custodial interference. So is there a bias against fathers when it comes to custody cases?
A review of data from the past 10 years reveals the overall number of custodial interference cases nearly tripled in Utah. There are many who believe the rights of fathers are being ignored.
“There’s nothing I’ve been through that’s harder than this,” said divorced Utah father Matthew Brown. John Scott is in a similar position.
“I have over 200 documented cases of being denied parent time,” he said. “In my opinion, they’re extremely biased.”
Brown and Scott claim they’re victims of custodial interference. They said their ex-wives have intentionally kept their children from them, despite the fact they have custodial rights.
How can parents protect themselves?
Both men said this is happening “without consequence.”
“Do you want me to go and bang down her door and physically remove my kids from her?” Scott said. “That’s not a healthy option to me.”
Utah law states that if a parent intentionally withholds a child from the other parent who is entitled visitation, they’ve committed a crime. But Scott and Brown said they believe the law is rarely enforced against women.
The following factors help a judge determine what is in the best interests of a child: the child’s school, community, religious, or other activities, the availability of both parents to care for the child, the developmental needs of the child, and the child’s emotional bond with each parent. The judge may also look at each parent’s parenting skills, the shared interests between the child and parents, the distance between the parents’ homes, and the preference of the child. Younger children may have a different parenting schedule than older children, but the court will also look at the parent-time schedule of siblings and whether the younger child is nursing.
Utah courts encourage separated or divorced parents to agree on a parenting schedule that is in the best interests of their child. Schedules should include where the child will live and which parent the child will be with during weekends, school vacations, and holidays. Parents may decide that the child will live at each parent’s house for one week at a time, or with one parent every other weekend, or any other schedule that they think will work for the family. They may also decide whether the other parent will have visitation during the week, and who will transport the child to and from each visit. A parenting plan should also address special occasions such as birthdays, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day. And, even though it is not required by the court, parents may decide how they will share costs such as medical expenses, school supplies, and expenses for extracurricular activities.READ MORE
Report says access to civil and family law courts is too limited and complicated
Justice system access unequal
The report, released in October, describes access to justice in Canada as being profoundly unequal, especially in civil and family law courts. The problem is particularly acute in family law cases where issues such as child custody and support are sometimes unfairly decided because people do not have access to legal representation.
Another Toronto Star article on the report described a growing number of people who make too much money to qualify for legal aid, yet often feel as though they cannot afford a lawyer themselves. As a result, many of these people are choosing to represent themselves in court.READ MORE
Utah’s Department of Health reports that approximately 32 percent of homicides in the state were connected to domestic abuse in 2011. More than 3,400 women, men and children sought protection in shelters to flee abusive environments.
Instances and threats of domestic abuse must be taken seriously. Help is available for those who find themselves in these situations. One legal remedy is to request a protective order.
Utah Protective Order Basics
Utah state law allows domestic abuse victims to file for protection with a Request for a Protective Order. A protective order is designed to keep a person from harming those who file the request, which can include the person requesting protection, known as the petitioner, and the petitioner’s children. The court order prohibits the accused from contacting the petitioner.
A protective order is available in a variety of situations, including divorce resulting from an abusive relationship. Many elements of a protective order can be particularly useful in this situation. In addition to offering actual protection, this document can result in:
This document also provides police with the ability to arrest a person who violates the order.
During the divorce process, many Utah parents wonder how their decision to end their marriage will impact the relationships they have with their children. In order to protect their children’s well-being, parents will either be awarded joint or sole custody once their divorce is finalized.
In sole custody arrangements, according to the American Bar Association, one parent is responsible for taking care of his or her children the majority of the time. This parent is also responsible for making major decisions about his or her children. However, when sole custody is awarded, the noncustodial parent is almost always given visitation rights. When this occurs, this parent may be able to care for his or her children on overnight visits or during vacation periods.
When a joint custody arrangement is awarded, parents may either be given joint legal custody of their children, joint physical custody of their children or both. According to the Utah Courts, parents who have joint legal custody of their children have the authority to make major decisions about them. For example, in these situations, both parents have the right to determine what religion, if any, their children will participate in, where they will go to school and what type of medical care they will receive.
Divorce Effects and Prevalence
It is a story that frequently unfolds in the lives of Utah parents. Mother and father are married, have children, the couple separates and finally divorce. Parenting by each is provided by the decree, and then the parent with primary residential custody decides to relocate. The other parent sees his or her relationship with the children and parenting rights at risk. The recent decision of Taylor v. Elisonby the Utah Court of Appeals is instructive on the road map for courts to decide whether to allow the relocation.
In Taylor, the divorce decree was entered into by agreement by both the mother and father, with primary custody to the mother, and both mother and father sharing legal custody. The decree, however, included a relocation provision that provided for an automatic transfer of physical custody of the children to the father should the mother move anywhere outside of Utah, except for Las Vegas. Four years later, the mother relocated to Arizona and the mother petitioned the court to modify the decree; the father responded by requesting the court to enforce the relocation provision of the original decree.READ MORE