Utah is becoming more progressive in how it handles child custody cases. There have been many laws added or amended that create a more level playing field for both parents. The court system centers around telling your story, applying the law and asking for specific assistance.
The first step in your case is the story. When telling your story it is not helpful to make “conclusion” statements such as: “she is a bad mom” or “he is a deadbeat dad.” The court is the fact finder and gets to reach these conclusions. You should recount specific incidences or observations that let the court reach these conclusions.
One mistake is focusing on the negatives about the other parent. While important to relay concerns it is equally, if not more important, to relay a) why you should get what you are asking for; b) why you are a great parent; and c) demonstrate that you can value the other parent’s role in raising your child. Utah Rule of Judicial Administration (“U.R.J.A.”) 4-903.
The main laws in child custody cases are Utah Code (“U.C.A.”)§30-3 and U.R.J.A. 4-903. You need to tell your story inside the context of these laws.
U.C.A. §30-3-10 outlines the “best interest of the child” as the standard in considering the custody arrangement. The court reviews your story looking at past conduct, demonstrated moral standards, parent more likely to act in the child’s best interest, allowing frequent and continuing contact with other parent, bonding, depth, quality, nature of relationship. It is presumed joint legal custody is best for children. This law excludes considering the biological sex of a parent. This law references U.C.A. §30-3-10 .2 for additional considerations. These are not recounted here as they are mostly duplicative. However, they are worth reviewing and the citation is linked.
U.R.J.A. 4-903 instructs the court and custody evaluator to review the parents’ story and predict the future best interest utilizing the following: i) child preference; ii) keeping siblings together; iii) relative strength of child’s bond with parents; iv) continuing previous custody arrangement if happy and well adjusted; v) moral character and emotional stability; vi) duration and depth of desire for custody; vii) ability to provide personal rather than surrogate care; viii) significant impairment of ability to function (i.e. drug abuse, drinking or other causes); relinquishment of a child; ix) religious compatibility; x) kinship; xi) evidence of abuse; and xii) other factors deemed important by the evaluator, party or court.
The story you tell, filtered through the above law, should culminate in you asking the court to for help that is reasonable under the circumstances. If you ask for something unrealistic then expect disappointment.
Finally, this world is full of problem identifiers but almost devoid of problem solvers. The likelihood of getting what you want increases substantially when you are able to explain specifically what you want and why. In short, provide the solution to the problems you’ve detailed in your story.
I hope this helps you and good luck!