Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law
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Sole vs joint custody in Utah

During a Utah divorce, child custody is one of the most fought over issues. Decades ago, sole legal and physical custody were routinely given to the mothers of the children with fathers being awarded visitation rights. This trend is slowly changing as science has shown the benefits of having two parents in a child's life, and society is more accepting of fathers taking on more of the parenting.

In Utah, there are two types of child custody: physical and legal. Custody of a child is usually awarded as joint or sole. Legal child custody is the right for parent to make major decisions for the child, and it can be awarded on a sole or joint basis. If one parent has sole legal custody, then they choose what schools the child attends, the religion they practice and other important decisions. Parents who are awarded joint legal custody can make day to day decisions regarding their child on their own, but any major decisions regarding the child must be agreed upon by both parents.

The second type of custody is physical custody. Physical custody determines where the child will live. If a parent has sole physical custody, then the child lives with them over 225 nights a year, the other parent has visitation. In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child lives with both parents an equal amount of time out of the year.

Utah allows for a number of child custody arrangements ranging from one parent having sole legal and physical custody to both parents have joint custody. But, like any determination involving children, the courts will look to the best interests of the child.

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