How Courts Decide Child Custody and Parent Time Matters

When deciding what level of child custody to give a parent (sole or joint) and how much parent time (visitation), Utah law requires that a court decide what is in the best interest of the child. The court does this by answering a list of questions referred to as “custody factors." These factors are found in two separate Utah statutes: U.C.A. 30-3-10 and 30-3-10.2. Although the individual wishes of parents are an important consideration for courts, Utah law requires that courts give these custody factors the highest priority.

Below is a complete list of these custody factors. You’ll notice they are often written in legalese and can be difficult for parents to navigate. We're here to help. If you have questions, please call our office for a free consultation.

Custody factors listed in U.C.A. 30-3-10:

  • Is there any evidence that a parent has committed domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, involving the child, the other parent, or a member of the parent’s household?
  • Has the parent demonstrated an understanding of, responsiveness to, and ability to meet the developmental needs of the child, including the child's physical, emotional, educational, medical, and any special needs?
  • Does the parent have the capacity and willingness to function as a parent, including having parenting skills, co-parentings skills, and an ability to provide personal care rather than surrogate care? Co-parentings skills include the ability to appropriately communicate with the other parent, the ability to encourage the sharing of love and affection, and a willingness to allow frequent and continuous contact between the child and the other parent? If the court determines that a parent restricted the child’s contact with the other parent in order to protect the child from domestic violence, neglect, or abuse, then the court will consider the parent's motive in doing so.
  • Has a parent engaged in bad conduct in the past?
  • Has the parent demonstrated good moral character?
  • Is a parent emotionally unstable?
  • Is the parent unable to function as a parent because of drug abuse, excessive drinking, or other causes?
  • Has the parent intentionally exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to minors. The terms "material" and "harmful to minors" are defined in U.C.A. 76-10-1201.
  • If a parent has relinquished custody or parent-time in the past, what were their reasons?
  • What is the duration and depth of the parent’s desire for custody or parent-time?
  • Are the parent's religious beliefs compatible with the child?
  • Is the parent financially responsible?
  • What has been the child's interaction and relationship with stepparents and extended family members of other individuals who may significantly affect the child's best interests?
  • Who has been the child’s primary caretaker?
  • Under what past or current parenting arrangements has the child been happy and well-adjusted in his or her home, school, and community?
  • What is the relative benefit of keeping siblings together?
  • What are the stated wishes and concerns of the child, taking into consideration the child's cognitive ability and emotional maturity?
  • What is the relative strength of the child's bond with the parent, meaning the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between the parent and the child?
  • Does the physical distance between the parents’ homes make joint decision-making and, therefore, joint legal custody impractical?
  • Does the parent or child have special physical or mental needs which make joint legal custody unreasonable?
  • Does a parent have a disability which significantly or substantially inhibits that parent's ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue and does the parent lack sufficient human, monetary, or other resources available to supplement the parent's ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue.
  • The court may consider any other factor it finds relevant.

Custody factors listed in U.C.A. 30-3-10.2:

Note: Some of these factors are similar to those listed in U.C.A. 30-3-10.

  • Will the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child benefit from joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both.
  • Is the parent able to prioritize the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest?
  • Does the parent have co-parenting skills, including an ability to appropriately communicate with the other parent, an ability to encourage the sharing of love and affection, and a willingness to allow frequent and continuous contact between the child and the other parent? If the court determines that a parent restricted the child’s contact with the other parent in order to protect the child from domestic violence, neglect, or abuse, then the court will consider the parent's motive in doing so.
  • Did both parents participate in raising the child?
  • What is the distance between the parents’ homes?
  • Is the child of sufficient age and capacity to reason to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both and, if so, what is the child’s preference?
  • Is the parent mature and do they have a willingness and an ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents?
  • Are the parents able to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly?
  • The court may consider any other factor it finds relevant.

Custody Factors Worksheet

To achieve the very best result in your case, we must provide the court information showing that the custody and parent time we’re requesting is in your child's best interest. To help us gather that information, we have designed a “Custody Factors Worksheet” that addresses each one of the factors. After your initial consultation, a member of our team will answer any questions you have about the factors and help you complete the worksheet.

Joshua R. Lucherini, Esq.

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For over 10 years, I have been helping clients achieve their goals. During that time, I have represented over 1,400 clients in the areas of personal injury, family law and criminal defense. I believe that the practice of law is a customer service business. The highest compliment a client can give me is to refer me their friends and family after a job well done.

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