Utah Child Custody Explained

Jul 28
mother holding child hand

Let Reneer & Associates help you create a child custody plan that will be in the best interests of your children.

When facing a divorce, there are many different factors at stake. One of the most important issues to be discussed and resolved is child custody for your children. It is difficult to navigate a divorce, but considering what is best for your children will help the process proceed with less hiccups.

A custody case may be brought separately or are part of the divorce case. Regardless of the initiating case, the Utah laws for child custody will govern each child custody issue. This holds true for un-married parents.

In Utah there are two types of custody that must be considered: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the living arrangements for the child, while legal custody focuses on who will make the legal decisions for the child until he or she turns 18 years old. In addition to the types of custody, Utah recognizes and uses several different custody arrangements. They are as follows:

Sole Legal and Sole Physical Custody

Sold custody means that one parent is given physical and legal custody of the child or children involved. The children will live with the parent who was granted sole custody and that parent will be charged with making all major decisions about the child’s welfare. The non-custodial parent will be given parent time, also known as visitation.

Joint Legal and Join Physical Custody

This arrangement is a bit different as the child or children will live with both parents, usually at least 111 nights per year in each home. In addition to the shared physical custody, both parents will need to work together to make decisions regarding the child or children’s welfare. Major decisions must be made together.

This arrangement works best when both parents live close to each other and are willing to communicate with one another.

Joint Legal and Sole Physical Custody

This is a combination custody agreement. Both parents will have a say in major decisions about a child’s life but there is a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. While, the child will live with one parent, the non-custodial parent will have regular parent time with the child.

Split Custody

When more than one child is involved, each parent may be awarded physical custody of one or more children. The court will determine what is best for each child and assign a custodial parent for each child. The legal custody may or may not be shared, as determined by the court.

If you have facing a divorce and have children, let the experienced Provo family law attorneys at Reneer & Associates help. We can help you create a parenting plan that will work best for your children. Call our office for a consultation today.

What Constitutes A “Violation of the Law” In a Plea In Abeyance Agreement?

Dec 31

A plea in abeyance or “PIA” is an agreement in a criminal case in which the defendant enters a provisional guilty plea and agrees to perform certain tasks. If the defendant complies with the PIA, the case is dismissed. If the defendant fails to comply, however, the guilty plea is entered as a conviction and the defendant may receive additional punishment.

Because the use of PIAs is discretionary, the nature and frequency of PIAs varies from court to court. However, nearly every PIA includes a term that a defendant may not commit a new violation of the law. The question is what constitutes a “violation of the law” for purposes of a PIA.

The Utah Court of Appeals recently addressed this question in Salt Lake City v. Northern, 2013 UT App 299, in which the Court reaffirmed its holding Layton City v. Stevenson, 2013 UT App 67, that a “violation of the law” in a PIA is not limited to formal conviction but “may be supported by evidence of misconduct other than a conviction.” In other words, a defendant may violate the law—and thereby his PIA—even if he is never convicted of a subsequent crime.

This is precisely what happened to the defendant in Salt Lake City v. Northern. Mr. Northern initially entered a PIA but the agreement was later revoked when he was accused of assault. Although witnesses to the incident disagreed on exactly what happened, both the trial court and appellate court found there was “sufficient evidence” that Mr. Northern violated the law. And while “sufficient evidence” would not support a conviction (the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”), it is evidently sufficient to support a violation of a PIA.

The holding in Salt Lake City v. Northern offers a stern warning to defendants that a PIA is a privilege and that a defendant may violate his PIA through conduct never resulting in a conviction—or even a criminal charge. If you are currently a criminal defendant and are being offered a PIA, be certain you understand the terms of the agreement as well as the consequences of violating it. If you have already entered into a PIA and have been accused of any violation of the law, you should consult with an attorney immediately, as that violation could result in a revocation of your PIA.

For additional questions about PIAs or your rights as a criminal defendant, or to speak directly with an experienced criminal defense attorney, please contact Reneer & Associates at (801) 377-3991 or email btwelch[at]

Welcome to the Law Blog

Dec 13

Welcome to the Reneer & Associates law blog! Stay tuned for future posts on the law. We plan to address all kinds of issues here– everything from recent Utah Court decisions and family law, to criminal law and business transactions.

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