In some disputes over child custody, each parent may be firmly convinced that the other one is unfit. However, unless there is convincing evidence that the child would not be safe and secure with one parent, you can expect family court to make arrangements for the child to maintain ongoing relationships with both parents. In theory, this is the best option for the long-term well-being of the child.
Therefore, if one parent subsequently violates the child custody agreement, the court is not pleased. In fact, intentional interference with the custodial rights of the other parent is a criminal offense in Utah. This does not mean you can get in trouble if you forget one time that you were supposed to bring your kid back on Saturday night, not Sunday morning. Or if your car breaks down on the way back from a vacation and you are late.
But a pattern of behavior that is meant to prevent one co-parent from exercising the visitation rights awarded by the court may be construed as a Class B misdemeanor. Leaving the state with your child without the authorization of the court and co-parent is a third-degree felony.
While Utah legal statutes make strict prohibitions against custodial interference, it also defines two affirmative defenses:
- The other parent consented to the action
- The defendant acted to protect the child from physical or sexual abuse
Your defense in the second case will be stronger if you have already alerted the authorities about your suspicions.
Utah family court does everything possible to protect the rights of the child when parents end their relationship. If you suspect that your ex is attempting to short-circuit your custody arrangements or you have been accused of interference, speak with a criminal defense attorney who has experience in handling custodial interference charges.