Third Party Child Custody And Visitation In Utah: Circumstances In Which Non-Parents Can Obtain Parental Rights

Keeping up with third-party child custody and visitation laws in Utah has become even more difficult than keeping up with the Kardashian family on TV. Did you know that there is a law that imposes strict requirements for third parties other than parents seeking to get custody or visitation rights of a child.

Our Salt Lake City child custody attorney at The Ault Firm explains that Utah law provides for very limited circumstances in which a third party can be granted child custody and child visitation rights. Since grandparents are also classified as “third parties,” even they have a hard time obtaining child custody or visitation rights unless doing so is deemed in the child’s best interests.

What does Utah law say about third-party child custody and visitation rights?

Previously, Utah family courts were more inclined to grant child custody and visitation rights to grandparents so that they could maintain close ties and establish an emotional bond with their grandchildren, but this is not the case anymore.

“In addition to respecting the best interests of children, parental rights also remain the highest priority for courts in Utah,” explains our experienced child custody attorney in Salt Lake City. The new legal requirements for third parties seeking child custody or visitation rights in Utah were implemented to let parents have an unrestricted relationship with their children.

Under Utah law, parents retain the “fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children,” as outlined in Utah Code Section 30-5a-103.

Circumstances in which non-parents can seek child custody or visitation rights in Utah

There is a very limited list of circumstances in which persons other than a child’s parents can petition the court for custody or visitation rights in Utah. A third party other than a parent of the child must prove the following elements to challenge the child’s parent’s “fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control” over the child under the legal standard of the “preponderance of the evidence.” These are the elements that must be established by the petitioner in Utah:

The petitioner is mentally capable of intentionally assuming the role and obligations of a parent to exercise control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of the child;

  • The petitioner has already established an emotional bond with the child;
  • The petitioner has built a parent-child type relationship with the child;
  • The petitioner contributed emotionally or financially to the child’s well-being;
  • The petitioner is not seeking child custody or visitation rights for financial benefit or as a result of a financially compensated surrogate care arrangement;
  • The assumption of the parental role by the petitioner would be in the best interests of the child;
  • Denial of the petitioner’s assumption of the parental role would not be detrimental to the child; and
  • The biological parent of the child is (1) absent or (2) was found by a court to have abused or neglected the child.

If a third party chooses to file a petition for third party child custody or visitation in juvenile court in Utah, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, who is basically an attorney representing the best interests of the child. However, if the petition is filed in district court, a guardian ad litem is not automatically appointed.

If you are someone other than a parent of the child and you wish to obtain child custody or visitation rights, do not be discouraged by Utah’s strict requirements for granting child custody and visitation rights to a third party. Consult with a Salt Lake City child custody attorney from The Ault Firm to speak about your particular situation. Let our lawyers evaluate your case in a free consultation. Call at 801-539-9000 today.