Trust Your Family Law Case to Capable and Compassionate Hands
Attorney Tonya L. Whipple and the team at Day Shell & Liljenquist, L.C. provide comprehensive legal services for family law clients throughout Utah. Our office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but we offer evening and weekend appointments when needed. Our office is located near the Murray Central Trax station.
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Child Custody Attorney in Salt Lake City: Protecting mothers' and fathers' interests since 1944


When a marriage breaks down, parents worry about how their children are going to fare in the years ahead. This is a time when you want a team of professionals you can rely on standing by your side. Our compassionate family law and child custody attorney in Salt Lake City understands your concerns. We help families solve child custody, child support, and child visitation problems throughout Utah.

Overview of Utah child support law

Utah has established guidelines for the calculation of child support obligations. Your divorce attorney can explain the specifics, but there are three main components in the child support guidelines:

    • Base child support
    • Medical care
    • Childcare expenses

Based on the parents' combined income, a table sets out a basic family support obligation. A percentage of the basic support total is allocated to each parent based on the parents' relative incomes. The noncustodial parent pays his or her child support obligation to the custodial parent. The Utah Child Support Act, which is codified as Section 78B-12-301 of the Utah Code, sets out the formula used to calculate child support, but an actual child support award can vary based on shared custody arrangements or other factors, such as travel expenses for visitation.

Child Support Payments

A court order determines how and when the noncustodial parent makes child support payments. Child support payments may be made directly to the custodial parent or through the Utah Office of Recovery Services. The Office of Recovery Services also helps enforce financial and medical support for children.

Child support payments continue until the child's 18th birthday or the child graduates from high school, whichever is later. Child support may end sooner if a child marries, joins the military, or otherwise becomes emancipated under Utah law. A court can change the date when child support ends.

Seeking child custody in Utah

In Utah, custody of a minor child is the legal status conferred by a court to the person who is responsible for the care, control, and maintenance of the child. Custody may be awarded in a separate legal action or as part of an existing family law case, such as a divorce. The custody provisions of Utah's divorce statutes typically apply even when the parents have never married. Some factors courts consider when deciding custody are:

  • Each parent's conduct and moral standards
  • Which parent is more likely to act in the child's best interest
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
  • The depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between each parent and the child

Our family law attorneys at Day Shell & Liljenquist, L.C. collaborate with you to determine the best course of action when you are seeking custody of your children.

What types of custody are available in Utah?

First, it is important to distinguish the two types of custody:

  • Physical custody: Physical custody refers to where the children live. For example, if a parent has primary physical custody, then the children live with that parent most of the time.
  • Legal custody: Legal custody indicates which parent has the right to access information regarding the children and to make important decisions about the children.

Utah recognizes multiple custody arrangements for minor children, including:

  • Sole legal and sole physical custody
  • Joint legal and joint physical custody
  • Joint legal and primary physical custody
  • Split custody

In most cases, unless there is a history of domestic violence in the family, the child has special needs, or the parents live far apart, joint legal custody is presumed to be in a child's best interest. A parent can overcome the presumption by presenting persuasive evidence to the court.

What if a parent wants to relocate after a divorce?

After a divorce, you may consider relocating to a new city or state to get a fresh start. A couple's existing custody and parenting time order may regulate the relocation of a parent. If one parent wants to relocate and the parents cannot agree to a new custody and parenting time arrangement, state law provides some parameters and a minimum parenting time schedule. Military deployment situations may be treated differently. Contact our family law attorneys for an analysis of your specific circumstances.

What are Utah's rules for visitation?

Visitation, also known as parent time or parenting time, refers to the time noncustodial parents spend with their children. If parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, state law sets a minimum visitation schedule for children younger than 5 and a separate schedule for children between 5 and 18. The court can order an alternative schedule that better fits your particular situation if it is in the best interest of your children.

Terminating parental rights in Utah

When parental rights are terminated, it means a court has legally voided the parent-child relationship and extinguished the rights and duties of the relationship, including the parent's right to visitation. A parent can voluntarily choose to have his or her rights terminated if another suitable person is willing to step into the role of parent, as in an adoption. In cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, a court may involuntarily terminate a parent's rights. If you are facing a termination proceeding and need help, contact our family law attorneys as soon as possible.