Legal custody refers to the rights, privileges, duties, and powers that inherently come with being the parent of a child. Legal custody is the right to make certain decisions that affect your child, such as what religion your child will practice, the medical care your child receives, where your child goes to school, and what extracurricular activities your child participates in.
Types of Legal Custody
A court may order two different types of legal custody: (1) joint legal custody, and (2) sole legal custody.
Joint Legal Custody
When two parents have joint legal custody of a child, the two parents must make decisions together. Before a court will order joint legal custody, it will first determine what is in the best interest of the child. Here are some things a court will look at:
- Whether joint legal custody will be in the best interest of the child;
- The ability of the parents to prioritize the welfare of the child;
- The ability of the parents to work together to make decisions for the child;
- Whether the parents are capable of nurturing a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent;
- The extent to which both parents shared responsibilities in raising the child before the divorce;
- The preference of the child (so long as the child is of a sufficient age to reason through the situation and state a preference as to joint or sole custody);
- The maturity of the parents;
- The ability of the parents to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents; and
- Any history of child abuse, spousal abuse, or kidnapping.
Sole Legal Custody
In Utah, courts assume that joint legal custody is better for the child than sole legal custody. So, if you want to obtain sole legal custody, you have to prove to the court that the other parent does not deserve to assist in making decisions for your child. If you are awarded sole legal custody, the other parent must defer to whatever decisions you make regarding healthcare, religion, schooling, extracurricular activities, and other decisions that impact your child.