Utah House Bill 71 passed and has been signed by the Govenor. This bill makes a number of changes to standard parent-time provisions. The changes are effective as of May 5, 2008. The bulk of significant changes relate to the holiday rotation being used by many co-parents in divorce and paternity cases.
This bill is particuarly important for parties who have a court order or decree that simply references any of the following Utah Code Ann. sections:
- 30-3-33, the advisory co-parenting guidelines
- 30-3-35, standard minimum parent-time for children over 5
- 30-3-35.5, standard minimum parent-time for children under 5
- 30-3-37, standard minimum parent-time if parent relocates more than 150 miles
House Bill 71 affects all of these provisions and the court may interpret a prior order or decree which makes reference to these code provisions to mean that the latest code provision is to be followed by the parties. Unquestionably, the new code provisions will be used in any case where there is no final decree or order by May 5, 2008.
The amendments to holiday time include reversing the years in which parents have parent-time on July 4, July 24, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Halloween, and Fall Break. There are changes to the division of the Christmas holiday, though it is to remain divided equally. It appears that the legislature felt it was unreasonable to have children shuttle twice between parents on Christmas Day, because now the exchange on Christmas Day makes Christmas night an overnight. Why the legislature messed with the Christmas Day exchange time, making it dependent on whether the total holiday from school has odd or even days, is a mystery. “Snow Days,” if they occur contiguous with the weekend or holiday, are now part of the parent-time for that weekend or holiday.
The changes also allow a full day of parent-time beginning at 9 a.m. for holidays and other times when the child does not have school.
The Code now states a preference for allowing non-parent child care to continue as it was during the marriage and a preference of unpaid or nominal-cost child care over paid child care. The amendments specifically allow non-parents to assist in providing transportation for parent-time exchanges.
There are two significant changes to the standard parent-time when a parent relocates. The “Relocation” provision is found at Utah Code Ann. section 30-3-37. That provision will now add the option of a non-custodial parent having one visit per month with the children and also provides the opportunity for increased summer parent-time if travel during the year is too costly or unreasonable given the distance between parents.
We look forward from hearing from counsel, parties, and others about experiences with the new parent-time provisions.
What about children under age 5 in the event the custodial parent moves? Is it really in the best interest of the young child to not see their non-custodial parent except once a month? Seems they need to specify a code for children under age 5 regarding relocation. Utah is non-progressive and really doesn’t take the child’s best interest into account! Children need to see both Parents on a regular basis. In a State that prides itself on Family, Utah can do better than this! Well adjusted children in a divorce situation are the ones who have equal time with both Parents.
We agree that the Utah Statute needs a lot more information and guidance about relocation. It is an issue that comes up more and more frequently and is hotly contested when it an issue. Because there are not clear cut statutory rules and the case law is not firm, we often end up going to trial in this cases, which is costly and could be avoided if lawyers and parties had more help from the State Legislature. Please contact your representatives and see if they will help out.
I have a concern regarding the two, two week vistation for the non custodial parent. My child is only three and it sounds like the non-custodial parent can take him for two weeks, possibly three weekends without me seeing him. Is that in the best interest for the child? Can’t they clairfy this better or make it a little better? I would think it would be better if the child was a little older to do this.
Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.
I’m Out! 🙂
One of the things I like about the change is that even though a parent will go without Spring Break and UEA in a calendar year, over the school year they will get at least one. In the past it has felt like we never see the kids for holidays during the school year or we always have them for holidays. It split them for the school year rather than the calendar year.
@Jennifer and @Holly: Thank you for stopping by and contributing to the dialogue on this blog. In both of your cases, you have a particular scenario for which you need direct legal advice. Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation so that we can look at the specific circumstances in your case and give you advice privately. 801-746-6000. Thank you again.
If my child has a event that happens to fall during the NCP parent time, is it required that I make up those same 2-3 hours time of “missed visitation” at a future time? As kids get older and have more extra-cirricular activities, is it the law that all “missed hours” be made up as though they we’re taken away from the NCP?
Does anyone know how the commissioners and judges are ruling in regards to the 2008 changes with the relocation (30-3-37) parent time schedule? My husband and his ex-wife only have temporary orders and a conflict concerning the change has erupted.
After attending a continuing legal education discussion last week regarding legislative updates, it appears that the judges and commissioners agree that UNLESS A STATUTORY PROVISION SAYS OTHERWISE, the statute as it read at the time of the final order or final Decree is the law of that case even if the statute then changes later. Temporary orders may be treated differently of course.
@Jodee and Chris: Thank you both for posting comments. In final orders or decrees, there may be a possibility of successfully arguing that the new schedule does not apply, particularly if the order or decree sets forth a specific schedule. However, it is unknown at this time whether the courts will consistently apply the new schedule or if the courts will consistently allow past decrees and orders to remain as they were. On the other blog entry in this blog- the other one regarding holiday time- you’ll see that we have not been able to determine how the court will react because most parties are just entering into agreements as to whether they will use the new statute, and if they decide not to, they are spelling out the schedule they wish to use instead, putting it in writing, and signing off on it together. In cases where there is no prior order or decree, the new provision will apply, no question.
Is it necessary to go back to court to implement these changes if your decree states that you follow the standard relocation schedule? And does the court have to rule on extending the parent time during the summer if some of the visits are missed due to costs etc…?
To implement these changes in the middle of the year certainly causes some problems. As a custodial parent dealing with a relocation schedule (30-3-37), these changes, if implemented on May 5th, determine that the non-custodial parent has 6 of the 8 rotated holidays in the two year period. There seems to be some serious issues with implementing a schedule based on a calendar year in the middle of the year. It may be assumed that the parties will work it out together to ensure fairness, but I can assure you that in many, if not most, cases, this will just leave the custodial parent missing 2 years in a row of 2 holidays, UEA and Spring Break. This hardly seems fair to me.
@Steve: Thanks for commenting on this blog entry. I did not initially realize this but you are correct that the legislature changed the former subsection (m) which specifically dealt with division of year-round school “off track” time. The code subsection (m) now makes no distinction between regular school and year round school summer parent-time. This could, in some cases, result in less summer time vacation for some parents. Thank you for pointing out that modification to the code.
the removal of this section is not just to both the child and the non-custodial parent who both look forward to spending extended time while year round school is not in session. This is absolutely absurd! The law continues to take away time from the non-custodial parent.
[(m) If the child is enrolled in year-round school, the noncustodial parent’s extended
326 parent-time shall be 1/2 of the vacation time for year-round school breaks, provided the
327 custodial parent has holiday and phone visits;.]