In Utah a child does not have the legal capacity to make the absolute decision as to a parenting arrangement. The law only allows the child to state a preference
to the court when the child is of sufficient age (teenager) and capable of articulating their preference. The judge is the one to make the final decision and will take the child's preference into consideration along with the following factors. The decision made will be based on the totality of the factors and circumstances to the particular case:
Child Custody Guidelines.
Utah laws allow the court to make an order for the future care and custody of the parties' minor children as it considers appropriate. The court shall consider the best interests of the child and, among other factors the court finds relevant, the following:
(a) whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal or physical custody;
(b) the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest;
(c) whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
(d) whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce;
(e) the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents;
(f) the preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal or physical custody;
(g) the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents;
(h) the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly;
(i) any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping;
(j) the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each of the parties;
(k) which parent is most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent; and
(l) any other factors the court finds relevant.
The court shall, in every case, consider joint custody but may award any form of custody which is determined to be in the best interest of the child. When deciding whether to award joint custody, the court will consider the same factors as above.
The court may take into consideration the children's desires for custody, but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the children's custody or parent-time otherwise. The desires of a child 16 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor.
-From 3-3-10 of the Utah Statutes.
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