Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Does Utah treat moms better than dads in custody cases?

In the United States, and perhaps throughout the world, there is an unwritten sentiment that women are better parents than men. In the United States this is evident in some legal and social service systems, wherein women are often favored by courts on issues of child support and child custody, among others.

Questions are being raised in Utah about how the courts treat fathers, especially in instances of a child custody dispute. Some Utah fathers claim to be victims of custodial interference; the state courts, they argue, do little to help them resolve the dispute.

Custodial interference, in essence, occurs when one parent withholds visitation from another parent, while the other parent is supposed to have legal visitation rights. The number of custodial interference cases in Utah has tripled in the last ten years. Fathers report being treated differently than mothers by everyone from police to judges when they attempt to exercise their visitation rights.

Under Utah law is it a crime for one parent to withhold a child from another parent when they are entitled to visitation. Statistics show that a majority of Utah interference cases have been thrown out by the courts over the past decade. Of those, over 60 percent were against mothers, while 37 percent were against fathers. Even those cases that are not thrown out take an average of 232 days to be resolved, which is more than enough time to corrupt either parent's relationship with children.

Divorces that involve children often end with a judge issuing guidelines for visitation and support. While these are legally binding decisions, which parents are required by law to follow, the actual outcome depends on each parent's behavior outside of court.

Source: KSL "Are fathers getting short end of the stick in Utah custody cases?" Mike Headrick, April 29, 2013

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