Utah Code 30-3-33 provides guidelines for how parents should communicate and cooperate with each other. Utah’s advisory guidelines are incorporated into most joint legal custody orders. Even where the advisory guidelines are not expressly incorporated into a custody order, family law commissioners utilize the guidelines to resolve post-judgment disputes between parents. The guidelines encourage parents to work together toward the common goal of meeting the needs of their children. For many parents, the guidelines are reasonable and common-sense. However, in high conflict custody cases, detailed guidelines are necessary to help parents manage their behavior and avoid ongoing litigation.
Several of the advisory guidelines are not common sense and should be reviewed carefully by both parents. Pursuant to Utah Code 30-3-33, Subsection 10, child support cannot be withheld due to a parent’s failure to abide by the court-ordered parent-time schedule. Even if the custodial parent refuses to allow the non-custodial parent any visitation, the non-custodial parent is expected to pay the full amount of child support. Similarly, the custodial parent should not withhold parent-time if the non-custodial parent fails to make a child support payment.
Pursuant to Subsection 15, parental care is preferred over surrogate care. The commonly used phrase “first right of refusal” arises from this section of the Utah Code. Utah courts prefer for children to be cared for by a parent, friend or relative, rather than having to go to child care. If the non-custodial parent works swing shifts, is unemployed or is otherwise available, the custodial parent is obligated to give the non-custodial parent the option to provide child care.
Subsection 18 provides that all children living in the same household should be subject to the same parent-time schedule. Utah Code Section 30-3-35 is the standard parent-time schedule for children over five years of age. Utah Code Section 30-3-35.5 is the limited parent-time schedule for children under five years of age. Pursuant to Utah Code Section 30-3-35.5, non-custodial parents are limited to six hours of visitation per week with infant children under six months of age. However, if the infant child has a six year old brother, the standard parent-time schedule would apply for both children.
Utah Code 30-3-33 Advisory Guidelines
- Parent-time schedules mutually agreed upon by both parents are preferable to a court-imposed solution.
- The parent-time schedule shall be utilized to maximize the continuity and stability of the child’s life.
- Special consideration shall be given by each parent to make the child available to attend family functions including funerals, weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant events in the life of the child or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict with the parent-time schedule.
- The responsibility for the pick up, delivery, and return of the child shall be determined by the court when the parent-time order is entered, and may be changed at any time a subsequent modification is made to the parent-time order.
- If the noncustodial parent will be providing transportation, the custodial parent shall have the child ready for parent-time at the time the child is to be picked up and shall be present at the custodial home or shall make reasonable alternate arrangements to receive the child at the time the child is returned.
- If the custodial parent will be transporting the child, the noncustodial parent shall be at the appointed place at the time the noncustodial parent is to receive the child, and have the child ready to be picked up at the appointed time and place, or have made reasonable alternate arrangements for the custodial parent to pick up the child.
- Regular school hours may not be interrupted for a school-age child for the exercise of parent-time by either parent.
- The court may make alterations in the parent-time schedule to reasonably accommodate the work schedule of both parents and may increase the parent-time allowed to the noncustodial parent but may not diminish the standardized parent-time provided in Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5.
- The court may make alterations in the parent-time schedule to reasonably accommodate the distance between the parties and the expense of exercising parent-time.
- Neither parent-time nor child support is to be withheld due to either parent’s failure to comply with a court-ordered parent-time schedule.
- The custodial parent shall notify the noncustodial parent within 24 hours of receiving notice of all significant school, social, sports, and community functions in which the child is participating or being honored, and the noncustodial parent shall be entitled to attend and participate fully.
- The noncustodial parent shall have access directly to all school reports including preschool and daycare reports and medical records and shall be notified immediately by the custodial parent in the event of a medical emergency.
- Each parent shall provide the other with the parent’s current address and telephone number, email address, and other virtual parent-time access information within 24 hours of any change.
- Each parent shall permit and encourage, during reasonable hours, reasonable and uncensored communications with the child, in the form of mail privileges and virtual parent-time if the equipment is reasonably available, provided that if the parties cannot agree on whether the equipment is reasonably available, the court shall decide whether the equipment for virtual parent-time is reasonably available, taking into consideration:
- The best interests of the child;
- Each parent’s ability to handle any additional expenses for virtual parent-time;
- Any other factors the court considers material.
- Parental care shall be presumed to be better care for the child than surrogate care and the court shall encourage the parties to cooperate in allowing the noncustodial parent, if willing and able to transport the children, to provide the child care. Child care arrangements existing during the marriage are preferred as are child care arrangements with nominal or no charge.
- Each parent shall provide all surrogate care providers with the name, current address, and telephone number of the other parent and shall provide the noncustodial parent with the name, current address, and telephone number of all surrogate care providers unless the court for good cause orders otherwise.
- Each parent shall be entitled to an equal division of major religious holidays celebrated by the parents, and the parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not celebrate shall have the right to be together with the child on the religious holiday.
- If the child is on a different parent-time schedule than a sibling, based on Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5, the parents should consider if an upward deviation for parent-time with all the minor children so that parent-time is uniform between school aged and nonschool aged children, is appropriate.