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.