Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Change in law offers new child custody rights

In most areas it proves true that the law evolves as society changes. The laws in many states regarding child custody arrangements were made for a society which changed decades ago. The pervasive view in courts and society that women are the ideal caretakers for children is slowly changing as fathers continue to fight for more time with their children.

In Utah, lawmakers are considering a bill which would give judges more flexibility when making child custody determinations. The bill HB314 narrowly passed the House committee and is now heading to the House for a full vote. While parents are currently able to mediate between themselves and come to a visitation schedule that works for both parties, a judge can step in and make a visitation schedule if the parents are having difficulty coming to an agreement. The schedule that is currently in place allows for one weekday night and every other weekend for non-custodial parents.

The proposed bill would amend Utah's current statute by adding a new schedule which includes 145 overnights and set holidays for the non-custodial parent. The hoped for result is that the non-custodial parent becomes more involved in their child's life building a stronger relationship. The law gives the judge the discretion to set the new schedule in the event parents aren't able to agree on a schedule themselves. The bill also requires parents to determine how they will deal with future potential custody disputes.

While the proposed bill is a vast extension of non-custodial parental rights it is also more in line with the reality of what arrangements parents are picking for themselves.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune "Bill would allow sanctions for adoption fraud by agencies, birth moms" Brooke Adams February 18, 2013

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