How Do Joint and Sole Custody Arrangements Differ in Utah

During the divorce process, many Utah parents wonder how their decision to end their marriage will impact the relationships they have with their children. 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.

Comparatively, joint physical custody means that the children spend at least 111 nights in the homes of each of their parents every year, states the Utah Courts. In these situations, it is usually best if the divorced parents are able to live near each other.


If parents devise a custody agreement with their ex-spouse and the court determines that it reflects the children’s best interests, this arrangement will be legally granted. However, if parents cannot come to an agreement, the decision of what type of custody will be awarded is left up to the court, states the Utah Courts. When determining what the children’s best interests are, the court will consider a number of different factors. These include some of the following:

  • Which type of custody will benefit the children’s different emotional, physical, and psychological needs
  • Whether or not both parents participated in raising their children before ending their marriage
  • The parents’ ability to work together and make joint decisions about their children

When a child custody determination is left up to the court, parents in Utah may have concerns about how these factors and others will affect their ability to acquire sole or joint custody. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, speak with an attorney to receive legal guidance during this difficult time.

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