Change in law could impact child custody in divorce proceedings

Divorce is not a fun occurrence for either of the two parties involved, but it can be equally as difficult, if not more difficult, on the children of the parties. The state of Utah has laws that guide how to proceed with a divorce and how child custody is awarded. Recently, the state legislature in Utah began considering a proposal to change child custody laws so that children would be given more of a voice as to which parent they want to live with after a divorce has taken place.

How The Change In The Law Could Affect Divorcing Couples

Currently in Utah, in order for a judge to consider a child's wishes about which parent he or she wants to live with during a divorce proceeding and after a divorce, the child must be at least 16 years of age. Now, a proposed bill aims to lower the age of when a child can provide input in the decision to age 14.

The bill has already passed through the Senate with a vote of 23-2 and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. If the bill passes in the House of Representatives, it will be sent to Governor Herbert, who would either sign the bill into law or veto it.

The passing of the bill by such a large number in the Senate is not surprising, as it seems right that children should get to have input in custody determinations since the judge's decision impacts them most. However, there was some debate about how this bill could impact the divorcing couples. One senator made the point that if a parent wants the child to live with him or her, he or she could manipulate the child and use it as leverage during the divorce proceeding.

The passing of this bill could lead parents to alter their parenting to make one parent seem more desirable than the other to the child. This seems like it could add stress to an already stressful situation for divorcing couples with children.

Regardless of whether the bill passes, it is important to remember that the judge in the proceeding has the overall say in who gets primary parenting time with the child, regardless of whether or not this bill turns into law.

Divorce Requirements In Utah

Since divorce is such a stressful time for both the divorcing couple and the children involved, Utah state law has requirements, which are outlined on the Utah courts website, for people who have minor children and seek a divorce to try to make the situation less intense for all involved.

If the parties have minor children together, it is required that each party attends a divorce orientation class before the divorce is granted. The education course helps parents understand their children's reactions to divorce and how to help their children adjust to the divorce.

If there are issues that are contested in a divorce, such as child custody, it is required that the parties attend at least one mediation session. In the session, the parties try to resolve the issue before the case goes in front of a judge.

A person dealing with a divorce should contact an experienced family law attorney. The attorney can help with court filings, the mediation process and negotiating with the other party and his or her attorney.