For many Salt Lake City parents, there is nothing more important in their lives than their children. As a result, when parents go through a divorce, one of the top issues that must be decided is which parent obtains legal and physical custody over the children.
When courts make a determination about which parent should be awarded custody over a child, it can be a difficult and complex decision. As discussed in last week's blog, the court is guided in its decision by looking at the best interests of the child.
Salt Lake City parents want the best for their children. They work hard to meet their children's wants and needs, even when times get difficult.
Raising a child is a difficult task even in a two-parent household. That task can be even more difficult when marriages fail or once happy couples call it quits and the two-parent household turns into two separate households. In these situations, issues such as child custody, visitation and child support are usually hammered out rather quickly. Even in situations in which both parents get along and are able to co-parent their child, life can throw a curve ball. Job changes, promotions, new relationships and a host of other reasons could require one or both parents to move from the city and even the state that they once called home. When these situations occur, hearings regarding custody are sure to follow.
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.
Adoption has been an integral part of U.S. society for generations. While the methods, use and purpose of adoption have not always been in the best interest of the children or the communities they are taken from, adoption is looked upon as a positive overall. For many the adoption story stops once everything is legally done and the child is at home with their new parents. But for those working to create a new family with their adopted child and the children themselves going home for the first time is just the beginning of a new journey which, unfortunately, sometimes ends prematurely.
The United States has a mixed record when it comes to the rights of fathers seeking joint or full custody of their children. For over the past century, courts, judges and attorneys have all held a bias in favor of woman being the primary care givers for children. This bias eventually turned into the tender years doctrine, which is still unofficially used in courts today as a reason for giving mother primary custody of younger children. As society changed so did fathers and now many are becoming more vocal about their demands for equal access and rights to their children.
Adoption is usually reserved for those parents who meet a stringent set of criteria set forth by laws and the court. These criteria have been used for generations to ensure an adoption is in the best interests of the child. In the past, and in rare instances today, certain people used the criterion as a means to prevent minorities and interracial couples from adopting children. Today the focus has shifted to whether or not same-sex couples should be able to adopt children. But novel interpretations of existing laws are now opening the doors for new types of families.
Adoption is a chance for those children who have been left behind in some way to find loving homes. As technology made the world smaller, the number of international adoptions has steadily risen as Americans seek to take in children from other countries. This can be a double-edged sword as some adoptive parents are ill equipped and unwilling to care of a less than "perfect" child.
Courts have long grappled with the best interests of the child standard that is generally followed in family law cases. As the times change, so changes the implications of that standard. Just a decade ago child custody was almost exclusively given to mothers. Today, courts are accepting and internalizing the importance of fathers and the positive effect of joint custody parenting on the children. As family laws changes and develops, another issue has recently made its way to the forefront of the legal world.