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STANDARD PARENT-TIME

Posted by: In: Newsletter Archive 25 Mar 2015 Comments: 0

BY JACOB R. POWELL

(Please understand that the answers to these questions are general in nature and may not cover every individual situation.)

The Utah legislature has enacted a standard minimum parent-time schedule in Utah Code s 30-3-35. There is a presumption of law that this schedule is in the “best interests of the children” unless the parties agree on another schedule. The standard parent-time schedule is built around the school year and its effect is to keep the children with the custodial parent during school, but divide up weekends, holidays, and summer-time nearly equally, as well as awarding some mid-week evening time. The schedule is as follows:

  • Weekends: The parents each get every other weekend.
  • Mid-Week Evenings: The non-custodial parent gets one mid-week evening for 3 hours.
  • Holidays: The non-custodial parent gets the holidays on List #1 (below) in odd-numbered years and on List #2 in even-numbered years, and the custodial parent gets the reverse.

LIST #1 (ODD YEARS)

  • Each child’s birthday (day before or after)
  • Martin Luther King Jr Day
  • Spring Break
  • July 4
  • Labor Day
  • Fall Break (UEA weekend)
  • Veteran’s Day
  • 1st half of Christmas Break

LIST #2 (EVEN YEARS)

  • Each child’s birthday (actual day)
  • President’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • July 24
  • Columbus Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • 2nd half of Christmas Break

Summer or Off-track Time: Up to four weeks “extended time.” The non-custodial parent can demand that two of those weeks be uninterrupted (the custodial parent gets an identical uninterrupted period). For the remaining two weeks, the custodial parent gets parent time as if the roles were reversed.

Telephone or virtual time: For “reasonable hours” and “reasonable duration.”

EXCEPTION: CHILDREN UNDER 5Where children are under 5 years old, the legislature has created a phased-in standard parent-time schedule in Utah Code s 30-3-35.5. The schedule is as follows

Age Weekends Midwk Eve Holidays Summer Phone
Birth-5mo 2 hrs 3x/wk 2 hrs each holiday
5-9mo 3 hrs 3x/wk 3 hrs each holiday
9-12mo 8 hrs 1x/wk 8 hrs each holiday
12-18mo Alternating 8 hrs / 18 hrs Standard 8 hrs each 2 1-wk (1 uninterrupted) 4 wks apart 2x/wk
18mo-3yr Standard Standard Standard 2 1-wk (1 uninterrupted) 4 wks apart 2x/wk
3-5yr Standard Standard Standard 2 2-wk (1 uninterrupted) 1 wk apart 2x/wk

In this schedule, the custodial parent gets more time in the early years, but there is also more interaction with the non-custodial parent each week.

EXCEPTION: LONG DISTANCEWhere the parties live in other states or 150 miles apart, the legislature has created a standard parent-time schedule in Utah Code s 30-3-37 that is designed to accommodate long distance. The schedule is as follows:

    Weekends: Up to one weekend per month (subject to certain rules).

  • Mid-week evenings: None.
  • Holidays: The non-custodial parent gets the holidays on List #1 (below) in odd-numbered years and List #2 (below) in even-numbered years, and the custodial parent gets the reverse:

LIST #1 (ODD YEARS)

  • Thanksgiving
  • Spring Break

LIST #2 (EVEN YEARS)

  • Winter Break
  • Fall Break (UEA)

Summer or Off-track Time: The non-custodial parent gets half.

This schedule technically only applies for a “school-age child,” and the legislature is unclear what the recommendation is for children under school-age.

EXCEPTION: GRADUAL REINTRODUCTIONThe Utah legislature has stated in Utah Code s 30-3-36 that it is best for parent-time to be gradually reintroduced in some cases. Normally two conditions need to be present before a court will require this: (1) when parent-time has not taken place for an “extended period of time” and (2) the child “lacks an appropriate bond” with the non-custodial parent.
RESTRICTED OR SUPERVISED PARENT-TIMEIn appropriate cases, courts may place restrictions on parent-time and award less than the standard minimum parent-time. The most common type of restriction placed on parent-time is requiring some level of supervision. This is typically done in cases where parent-time would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. Utah courts typically prefer to make any restrictions on parent-time temporary, only until the danger is passed, and then reintroduce standard parent-time (sometimes gradually, depending on the circumstances).
AWARDING MORE THAN STANDARD PARENT-TIMEIn appropriate cases, courts may award more than standard parent-time. Normally, the court will do this in a case where a parent historically had more time than standard and it would be detrimental to the children to take that parent-time away.For a school-age child, there are really only a few ways in which standard parent-time can realistically be increased without changing custody. The few common ways I have encountered as as follows:

  • Granting the non-custodial parent multiple mid-week evenings.
  • Granting the non-custodial parent more of the summer or off-track time.
  • Granting the non-custodial parent more than half of the weekends or holidays.
  • Granting a mid-week overnight.
  • Granting a Sunday overnight at the end of the non-custodial parent’s weekend.

In order to determine whether a judge might award more parent-time, parent-time factors must be considered.

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