A custody evaluation takes at least two to three months to complete, and each evaluator conducts his or her evaluations differently. All evaluators will make at least one visit to the home of each parent to evaluate the suitability of the living arrangements. Most evaluators will have the parents make several appointments with the evaluator at his or her office, and will usually have the parent bring the children to at least one of these appointments.
Custody evaluation process in Utah
Some evaluators rely heavily on psychological testing, while others use almost no psychological testing. Some are more concerned about having parents respond to hypothetical questions about parenting situations to assess the parents’ parenting skills.
Once the evaluation is complete, the commissioner will have the parents come in for a custody evaluation settlement conference. This is an opportunity for the parties to meet with the court commissioner and the custody evaluator, discuss the evaluation, and try to settle the custody issues. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the matter is set for trial.
Standard parent time
Finally, we need to discuss what is referred to as “standard parent time.” In Utah, standard parent time is described in two statutes: Utah Code Ann. §30-3-35 and §30-3-35.5. Section 35 describes standard parent time for children 5 years old to 18 years old. Section 35.5 describes parent time for children under five years of age.
For children over 5 years old, standard parent time for the noncustodial parent is:
Every other weekend from the time the children get out of school on Friday (or as soon as the parent can pick up the children) until Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
- One weeknight a week, from the time the children get out of school until 8:30 p.m. The noncustodial parent can choose the day for this parent time. If the noncustodial parent does not make a choice, this weeknight visit will occur on Wednesdays.
- Four weeks of parent time during the summer. Two weeks of this parent time is uninterrupted so the noncustodial parent can take a vacation with the children.
- Half of the children’s Christmas vacation each year.
- Half of the other holidays each year, according to a schedule created by the Legislature.
If either parent moves out of state or remains in the state, but more than 150 miles away from the other parent, the standard parent time changes. Under the relocation statute, Utah Code Ann. §30-3-36, standard parent time is:
- One weekend a month if the noncustodial parent can make arrangements to exercise this time.
- Half of the summer time
In odd years:
- Spring Break
In even years:
- UEA Break
There is some controversy about standard parent time. Some judges think that this is the Legislature’s recommendation for parent time, and use it as the default for divorce cases they hear. Some judges understand that standard parent time is the minimum that the Legislature will permit a judge to enter without special circumstances, and try to give parents more parent time than just standard parent time.