Every child custody case begins with a petition that is filed with the Court. For married parents, a “Petition for Divorce” will be filed and for unmarried parents, a “Petition for Paternity” or a “Petition for Custody, Visitation, and Support” will be filed. The requirements for each Petition are a bit different, but any time the Court is determining custody the judge will make a decision based on the “best interests” of the children.
Filing Your Petition for Custody in the Right Court
There are a number of requirements that have to be met before a Utah Court can make a decision as to a parent’s custody and visitation rights. There are various exceptions and other lesser-known rules that may apply to your individual case and your attorney can help you sort through those if they’re applicable, but for most cases where your children have been living in Utah for the past 6 months the following general rules will apply:
- If you’re married and filing a Petition for Divorce, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where you or your spouse have resided for the last three months.
- If you’re not married and you’re filing a petition to establish paternity over your child, you must file your petition in the county courthouse where the child resides.
Requirements When Filing for Joint Child Custody
Whenever you file for any type of joint custody (joint legal or joint physical custody) you must file a “parenting plan.” Failure to file a parenting plan can potentially be devastating. This is so because many custody battles end up in a temporary orders hearing where the court will implement a temporary parent-time schedule. If you are asking for joint physical custody, and the other parent has the children a majority of the time, and you have not filed a parenting plan, the court cannot technically award you joint physical custody. This would mean the court would award the other parent with primary physical custody, you would have less time with your children, your child support amount would be higher, and your case for permanent joint custody could be weakened.
Getting deserved custody and parent-time with your children as fast as possible is paramount for any concerned parent. Because of this, you must be sure that you start your case out on the right foot. Making even basic errors can cause serious delay in getting the court to intervene and give you court orders protecting your custodial rights.