In the past, I’ve listed a few of the factors courts will consider in making determinations for custody awards. Here, I’d like to talk in depth about what are perhaps the most important and compelling factors.
If you’re following along with the statute, regard U.C.A. 30-3- 10.2(d), which states, “whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce.” Another way of saying this is, who is the primary caretaker?
This is an important question and is also fairly easily demonstrated. The court will want to see what the parties did historically. The questions will be such as, who feeds, bathes and puts the children to bed.
Obviously, these aren’t the types of things a parent might easily look at a diary and say, on January 10, 2004, I gave Junior a bath, just like January 11, January 12, and so on and so on… unless that parent “always” did those activities.
There are, however, many things a parent can report with a great degree of accuracy and support. School records, for instance, are obtainable and very helpful. Who goes to a parent-teacher conference with the children? Does anyone volunteer at school? Who signs the child’s homework or progress reports? These are all examples of records that are regularly kept and easily ascertainable.
Another entity that keeps great records is doctor’s offices. Who is taking the children to their doctors and dental appointments? For younger children, who is checking them into and out of day care and pre-school?
These are all simple ways for the court to see who is actively parenting the children. I cannot overstate the importance of being involved in the children’s lives. For that matter, you can make your own record of how you spend your time with the children. Document things.
First of all, make time for the kids. One of the factors the courts will consider is the extent of bonding between the parent and the children, meaning the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between a parent and child. A great example of this is when, for instance, daddy has a date night with each of the kids. It’s important to make time to spend with each one of the children. In addition to making time, document it. Keep a diary of activities you do with the children. Photographs and videos of activities make strong evidence.
The bottom line is that a court will be interested in who is and has been the primary caretaker to make a determination about how custody will unfold and how to award parent-time. It is important to be able to show the court that a parent seeking joint custody participated historically in raising the children and fostered a strong bond with the children.