Understanding the Types of Child Custody Settlement Options
May 24th, 2023
Divorce rates in Utah are among the lowest in the nation, averaging between 8% and 9% of all marriages ending in divorce.
While the rate is low, 60% of all divorced couples in Utah have underage children.
One of the most complex parts of working out divorce for nearly any couple is the challenges of sharing time and living arrangements for their children.
If you're considering talking to a Utah divorce attorney about your marriage, you might wonder about the types of child custody you might face.
For many, the thought of not having all the time with their children can feel daunting, so understanding child custody is critical in the divorce process.
Read on to learn more about types of child custody.
In Utah, the part of the divorce agreement that handles child custody includes Utah statutes: U.C.A. 30-3-10 and 30-3-10.2. If parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement, the courts must get involved and decide.
The court wants to pay attention to the wishes of the parents. Ultimately, though, the court's role is to place the child based on their best interests.
The court will use a list of questions commonly referred to as the custody factors to help them decide the best custody arrangement.
It's important to remember that the court will focus on the children's interests, not the parents.
There are two types of custody for a court to consider.
Physical custody is often the most challenging consideration. This involves where the child will live.
It might be that the child lives solely with one parent or has shared time with the parents. If the child shares time between parents, the court will decide how that time is divided.
As the court makes these decisions, they'll consider:
- Parent's living situation
- Ability to care for the child
- The child's needs and preferences (if old enough)
They'll use this information, along with the other custody factors, to decide where the child lives.
Legal custody is different than physical custody. Legal custody addresses who has the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child.
This might involve where a child attends school or makes decisions about their medical care.
Sometimes, a parent may get sole physical custody and still have shared legal custody. The courts take very seriously taking away a parent's legal rights to decide for their child.
The custody factors are also used in deciding legal custody.
Types of Child Custody Arrangement
So, now that you understand the two basic types of child custody, you might wonder how the court could opt to apply them for a case.
Let's take a closer look at the types of child custody and what they mean practically.
Joint Legal Custody
In joint legal custody, the parents share legal rights for the child. The court expects that the parents have the ability to communicate and make sound decisions on behalf of the child.
This has nothing to do with where the child lives or how they spend their time. Some legal decisions overlap with physical custody, like where a child might attend school.
Legal custody means both parents can sign documents for the child involved.
Sole Legal Custody
Sole legal custody means one parent is named as the person with legal rights for the child. They make all decisions on behalf of the child.
The court may encourage the parent with legal custody to involve the other parent as much as possible, yet ultimately decide there was a reason one parent wasn't fit to make decisions for the involved child.
Just because a parent doesn't have legal custody doesn't necessarily mean they won't have physical rights to see the child.
Shared Physical Custody
Shared physical custody means that the parents will share the child. There are several ways that shared physical custody can play out.
- The child may split their time equally between parents
- The child may reside with one parent primarily with visits to the other parent
There are several ways to arrange equal time, like one week with one parent and the following week with the other parent.
A child may reside with one parent and spend weekends with the other parent.
Once shared custody is decided, the court must help parents determine what that will look like.
Sole Physical Custody
Sole physical custody means that the child will reside solely with one parent.
There's an assumption that the other parent won't see the child, and that's not accurate.
The parent without physical custody rights might still get parenting time.
The court might decide to award a parent who doesn't have physical custody parenting time.
This means they get some established time to spend with the child. If they don't have any physical custody, it would be unusual for the parent to get overnight visits, though.
They may be allowed visits for several hours each week to stay connected with their child.
How much time the parent gets in parenting time will be decided based on the information gathered from the custody factors questions.
Get the Help of a Divorce Attorney
Divorce on its own can be challenging and traumatic. When there are children involved, it makes it that much more difficult.
If you're considering divorce or have started divorce proceedings, you must protect your interests by securing a divorce attorney.
They are experienced in negotiating child custody and will work to get you the time you deserve with your child.
Understanding the Complexities of Child Custody
If you decide to end your marriage, the idea of not having your child in your life on a daily basis may feel impossible. It's important to understand the types of child custody that might be considered.
A Utah divorce attorney can help guide you through the process while protecting your rights as a parent. We should talk if you need help navigating your divorce and child custody. Contact us to set up a time that we can discuss your case.