Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What types of child custody arrangements are available?

Parenting is not always easy for Salt Lake City residents. There is no shortage of challenges facing parents today, even under the best of circumstances. These challenges can increase when the parents become involved in a custody dispute over the children.

As discussed last week in this blog, custody issues are often at the heart of many divorces, no matter what other factors may be at play. While many might think that custody is an all-or-nothing affair, in truth, there are many different custody options available to the court.

To begin with, there is a difference between physical custody and legal custody over the child. Physical custody has to do with the child's living arrangements, while legal custody involves each parent's right to make decisions concerning the child.

Typically, joint custody over decision-making is presumed to be in the child's best interests. This presumption can change if there are other factors at play. With joint legal custody, both parents make decisions about the child's well-being. This type of arrangement works best when there are open lines of communication between the parents.

Similarly, joint physical custody involves a setup where the child stays a significant amount of time with both parents over the course of the year. Like with decision-making, this arrangement works best if the parents communicate, and it also helps if the parents live in the same general area.

In some cases, the court may award one parent sole custody over the child, including sole custody over decision-making and sole physical custody. Generally, the other parent is still allowed parenting time with the child, otherwise known as visitation, but custody itself is held by one parent.

In other cases, the court might award sole physical custody to one parent but joint legal custody to both. Or the court can award sole custody to one child, but not another, if there are multiple children involved. Accordingly, there are several different options available, with the right choice depending on the circumstances of each case.

Source: Utah Courts, "Child custody and parent time," accessed on Nov. 26, 2016

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