The Utah Courts’ website has a “Frequently Asked Questions” section about getting a divorce in Utah. Click here for that information.
Some of the information is helpful but a lot of it can be misleading to a person who has no experience or legal training. For example, under the question about relocation, the site says, “A custodial parent usually is not prohibited from leaving the state with the children.” In our experience, this is far from the reality of the situation. We have litigated many cases and even gone to trial on the issue of relocation and the courts have very rarely permitted relocation of the children even when the move would have been with a parent who had sole or primary physical custody. The courts have often stated that they cannot, and will not, prohibit the custodial parent from moving and they can provide extensive parent-time to that parent, but generally the courts side with the custody evaluator and custody evaluators in Utah have often taken the position that a move is not in the child’s best interest. On the other hand, relocation certainly has also been permitted in other cases. This issue usually requires a custody evaluation and can be very litigated and complex.
Similarly, the Utah Courts’ site says, “Joint legal custody can have several interpretations. Minimally, it means that both parents make joint decisions about major issues affecting the children.” Actually, the law requires that there be a certain level of specificity when agreeing to or being awarded joint legal custody. Failure to provide that specificity allows the parent with more time to make the default decision. This means that your document can say “joint legal” and still the parent with more time makes the decisions; in our minds, this is not really joint legal custody but sole legal custody. Many clients that come to us after having proceeded without representation are surprised to find out that the other spouse just made a decision about the children and there is nothing that they can do because of the way the document was written, even though the document clearly says “joint legal custody.”
The advice of an attorney is always recommended in divorce and paternity cases. Things are not always what they seem. We are glad that the Utah Courts’ website has attempted to give people more information in the process of divorcing but it is important that you do not take that information at face value. Please contact us to set up a 30 minute consultation at the discounted price of $25.00.