Can I Bring My Child to Divorce Court in Utah?

When it comes to bringing your child to a Utah divorce court, the answer is almost always no.  The judge or commissioner will not be pleased to see a child in the courtroom during the parents’ divorce proceedings.  The Court will view the parent bringing the child as acting inappropriately.  Exceptions include if the court has already decided that a child should testify or interview with a judicial officer.

For a number of compelling reasons, parents should not involve their children in their disagreements. A parent that places their child in the middle of a fight with the other parent is not helping the child.


Should Your Child Speak In Divorce Court?

Admittedly, children may be involved in a serious situation where their voice needs to be heard. Often, this need is met by the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL). The GAL can speak with the child and then attend hearings. The GAL will be able to work with the parents to address concerns and reach a resolution, whether through settlement or trial.

Can I Bring My Child to Divorce Court in Utah?
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Protecting Your Ability to Appeal Early

If you appeal a judgment that went against you, an appellate court will be deciding your case. However, an appeal is not necessarily a repeat of the proceedings in the trial court. Primarily through written briefs, lawyers point to what the trial court did. They argue about whether the trial court’s decisions or actions were appropriate. The appellate court may then affirm, modify, or reverse the trial court’s decision. The appellate court can also order the trial court to hold more hearings or improve upon its prior decision.

What To Do While On Appeal

However, if the trial court was not asked to make a decision on a certain issue, the appellate court will typically not consider that issue on appeal. This is known as the rule of preservation. If a party did not make the argument below, you cannot make the argument before the appellate court unless the trial court made an obvious and harmful mistake.

This means that it is imperative that you get your case right the first time. Evidence must be brought in and arguments must be made to the trial court so that if the trial court makes a mistake, your appellate attorneys can argue about it on appeal. At Christensen Law, we have experience both with trial courts and appellate courts. We can help you identify what arguments you have for appeal and also help you start in the trial court on the right foot.

Protecting Your Ability to Appeal Early
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Should I Appeal My Case?


If you are unhappy with a Utah judge’s decision in your case, you have a right to appeal. An attorney can help evaluate whether there are good grounds on which to base your case. Unfortunately, having good grounds to appeal does not necessarily mean that it is the best decision. You must consider whether an appeal would serve your interests.

Possible Factors:

Cost will be one of the big factors. Depending on the type of case and the matters at issue, pursuing an appeal with an attorney’s assistance can cost several thousand dollars. If you are appealing a $2,500 dollar judgment against you, there is a risk you will pay more to continue than the judgment is worth. On the other hand, if you are fighting a $100,000 judgment or an alimony award that requires you to pay $2,000 per month for several years, an appeal may be a good investment—if your appellate attorney feels you have a decent chance of winning.

There may be other factors that help you decide whether to move forward, but many of them will be unique to you and your case. In addition to pursuing the appeal for you, the attorneys at Christensen Law can help you evaluate your chances and the practicalities of your situation.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at, or find us on facebook or twitter.  We will respond to your question as soon as we are able.


Should I Appeal My Case?
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Right of First Refusal

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

It is increasingly common for both parents to work in order to remain financially capable of providing for their children. Often, one parent will be available and willing to care for the child. This occurs even though it is not during their scheduled parent-time. This allows the child to spend more time with the parent. It also saves money that you would otherwise spend on daycare or childcare.

You can ensure you have the opportunity to care for your child in these situations. To do so you will need to include a clause commonly referred to as a Right of First Refusal. This clause, much as the name indicates, gives a party the right to care for the child if the other parent is working and they are available even when it is not their parent-time. When including a right of refusal clause, it is a good idea to address factors such as how long a parent must be absent in order for the other parent to have the option to care for the child, who will transport the child to and pick up the child from the other parent, how much notice a parent must give the other parent of an opportunity to care for the child, as well as any other factors specific to your situation.

How This Is Different In Utah

In Utah, the state divorce code advises that “Parental care shall be presumed to better care for the child than surrogate care and the court shall encourage the parties to cooperate in allowing the noncustodial parent, if willing and able to transport the children, to provide the child care. Child care arrangements existing during the marriage are preferred as are child care arrangements with nominal or no charge.” Ideally, both parents can work together to facilitate the schedule of all parties, including the child; however, it is wise to have a clause like this in place before an issue arises. There is no automatic right of refusal in Utah. If the parenting agreement does not explicitly state these rights, you could miss out on valuable child time. Please contact us to learn more about parenting plans and childcare.

Have a legal question? Schedule a free consultation today!

Right of First Refusal
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The Divorce Process In Utah: A Basic Guide


Divorce proceedings are heard in family court in what is known as a “bench trial”.  This means that a jury doesn’t hear the trial. A single judge hears it who then decides the final outcome of the case. A spouse has to file a divorce petition with the court and allow the other spouse 21 days to respond.  They will receive a hearing date and assigned to a Judge. Many think their hearing will be with a Judge and the matter will quickly be resolved. However, this is not often the case. The initial hearing is before a Commissioner who aids the Judge in the divorce process.

A Commissioner is similar to a Judge and acts in a very similar role. The Commissioner will hear arguments from both sides and consider any evidence that the parties have provided to the court. The Commissioner has the power to make temporary orders concerning various matters. This could include parent time, child support, or even matters as serious as restraining orders. The court expects the parties to follow the defined Utah Rules of Civil Procedure which can often be confusing. Something as simple as missing a filing date can have significant effects on a case.

But What Then?

Once the Commissioner makes a ruling on a matter and a temporary order is in place, either party may object to the ruling and reserve the right to have the issue heard by the assigned Judge. Nothing guarantees that the Judge will grant you a hearing in the case of an objection. Even if he does grant it it will likely be several months before a hearing can be scheduled.

Divorce proceedings can last anywhere from a few months to over a year. If the parties are unable to finalize a divorce agreement through proceedings with the Commissioner, a trial date will be scheduled with the Judge. At trial, a Judge will consider all of the evidence that has been presented to the court as well as the previous orders issue by the Commissioner and, after hearing from and speaking with both parties, will issue a final order that will outline the final divorce decree.

The Divorce Process In Utah: A Basic Guide
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The Secret About Child Custody You Probably Didn’t Know About


Custody is a legal status determining who has the responsibility to care for and look after a minor child. This can include things as simple as feeding, clothing, and sheltering a minor. It can also include decisions concerning health care, schooling, and other life decisions. The courts make a distinction and decision on two types of custody, physical custody, and legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is often the first that comes to a person’s mind; it determines which party will take care of the child and who the child will live with. A parent or guardian may receive joint physical custody. This means the child’s physical care is shared substantially by both parties. Sole custody gives one of the parties a significant majority of the parent time. This does not mean that the other party has no time with the child, rather would just have less parent time with the child than a joint custodial parent. Generally, whichever party is caring for the child at the time will be responsible for the physical well-being of the child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines which parent or guardian makes the final decision in legal matters.  This could be concerning the child and day to day life decisions such as healthcare, education, religion, etc. Like physical custody, legal custody can be either joint or sole. In the case of joint custody, the court or the parties had a spectrum of responsibilities that can be shared. Some joint custody orders are similar to sole custody except that both parties are expected to share information about the child.

Some joint custody orders require more joint involvement with both parties to discuss the child’s needs before making decisions. Other orders require agreement on what is in the best interest of the child when making important decisions. A parent with final say in a joint custody or sole custody arrangement is allowed to do what he or she feels is in the best interest of the child. The parties can agree or the court will determine if parents can work together on making decisions.

Where To Go From Here:

These custody statuses can vary. A parent can have sole physical custody but only joint legal custody. For example, if a parent moves to a different state and joint physical custody is not feasible, one party might have sole physical custody while having joint legal custody. The custodial parent would have the child for the significant majority of the time. However, they may still be required to consult the other party when making important decisions regarding the child.

When making determinations concerning custody, the court will consider factors like the conduct of the parents, the ability to care for the child, the ability of both parties to co-parent effectively, and the relationship between the parent and the child to name a few. If you can come to an agreement about custody without going to court, you should still consult with an attorney to ensure the courts have your custody rights properly outlined and recorded to avoid future disputes.

The Secret About Child Custody You Probably Didn’t Know About
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What are Domestic Relations Commissioners?


Some of Utah’s district courts hire individuals to serve as domestic relations commissioners. These commissioners are not judges, but they are similar. They wear black robes and sit in a courtroom like a judge. In family law cases, these commissioners preside over most of the hearings in the final trial before a judge. If the parties in a family law case settle before trial, they might never need to go to a hearing.

The key differences between commissioners and judges include how they conduct hearings  and the finality of decisions. Commissioner hearings are typically much shorter and their decisions not technically final.

Hearings In Front Of Commissioners

For hearings in front of commissioners, the parties, and their attorneys summarize the evidence and testimony they would use if the court was holding a full hearing with a direct and cross examination. The parties can also inform the court, through the commissioner, of any deals or agreements they have reached. The commissioner then “recommends” a decision. This process can save time and money for both the parties and court.

But, naturally, some people will feel that the commissioner got it wrong or would have made a different decision if there had been a full hearing with witnesses on the witness stand and scrutiny of evidence.

This is why the commissioner’s decision is a recommendation. If one or both of the parties thinks it is a bad recommendation, they may object to the recommendation and request that the judge addresses the matter. The judge will then make a final decision. If the parties do not object, the commissioner’s recommendation automatically becomes the decision of the court, as if made by the judge.

Parties should also be cautioned that the commissioner’s recommendation is a court order until a judge rules otherwise.  This is the case even if it is not necessarily on paper and an objection has been filed thereto.

Have a legal question? Schedule a free consultation today!

What are Domestic Relations Commissioners?
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How Does An Appeal From A Final District Court Decision Work?


Unless your case originated in small claims court or justice court and does not address the constitutionality of a law, the Utah Constitution gives you a right to appeal the final decision of a state district court to one of Utah’s appellate courts—the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court.

To initiate you the appeal, you must file a notice of appeal with the district court.  You must also pay a fee to the district court within thirty days of the district court’s final decision. At that time or shortly afterward, you will likely need to post a bond to cover costs (typically $300).  You also will need to order transcripts of any relevant hearings, and prepare a docketing statement to help the parties and court evaluate the nature of your claims on appeal.

Which Court Will You Go To?

Depending on the type and nature of your case, your attorney may file your appeal with the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. It is important to file your appeal with the correct court, but either court is capable of transferring your case to the other for various reasons. If the Utah Court of Appeals hears your case, you will have an opportunity to convince the Utah Supreme Court to take your case. Decisions of the Utah Supreme Court are typically final, but in some instances, you may attempt to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Once all fees are paid, transcripts are prepared, and records are forwarded to the appellate courts’ office in Salt Lake City, the clerk of the court will set the due date for you to submit a brief arguing the merits of your case. Put simply, your brief will identify the decision on which the district court may have made a mistake, explain the facts of the case, and argue why the decision was wrong. Once your brief is filed, the opposing party will have a chance to file a brief. This brief will explain why the district court was correct.

You may file a second brief to rebut the opposing party’s brief, but you may not raise new issues. The court will then provide a written decision, perhaps after holding an oral argument. If you win, the written decision will explain what the district court must do or should have done. You will then return to the district court to ensure to appropriately apply the appellate decision.

This explanation is a short and generalized summary of what happens on appeal. If a district court has ruled against you and you are considering an appeal, the clock is ticking. An attorney can help determine when the appeal deadline is. He can counsel you as to whether you have a viable appeal. He will also tell you whether your appeal is worth it, write the briefs, and handle the appeal.

How Does An Appeal From A Final District Court Decision Work?
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What Is A Parenting Plan?


When the court awards parents joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both, the parents share physical custody and decision-making authority. Joint custody differs from sole custody where one parent makes all decisions and is typically locked into honoring a specific visitation schedule for the other parent’s parent time.

A parenting plan can help parents who are awarded joint custody specify the custody schedule and many major decisions in advance or set the process for making decisions that are not already made or are unanticipated. In Utah, when a parent asks the court to enter a joint custody award, the court will require them to present a proposed parenting plan to the court. The parent must also certify that he or she proposed the plan in good faith.

If You’d Like To See A Sample Parenting Plan, Click The Link Below:

A parenting plan can address nearly any subject related to the children. Some common topics addressed in parenting plans include the following:

  • How to make future decisions regarding the children
  • Who makes what types of decisions or who has the final say
  • What happens when parents disagree about a decision
  • How parents should communicate when discussing the children
  • What days or holidays each parent has the children
  • How to agree to changes or deviations to the plan
  • What will happens when a parent moves
  • How the parents will access school and medical records

If you have any questions about Parenting Plans, leave a comment below and we will answer your question promptly.

What Is A Parenting Plan?
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How Restraining Orders and Protective Orders Can Affect Your Divorce


Protective Orders v. Restraining Orders

Television, movies, and books play fast and loose with the terms “restraining order” and “protective order.” In Utah, there is a difference between the two. Presumably, there is a difference between the two in other states, but each state may have its own phraseology, laws, and procedure.

Protective Orders

Utah courts issue protective orders based on a showing that domestic violence or abuse has occurred or is substantially likely to occur. They prohibit certain persons from coming to certain residences, places of work, schools, etc. They may also prohibit certain types of contact or behavior. In Utah, a person can ask a Utah court for a protective order against any person who can be defined as their cohabitant.

Cohabitants include current/former spouses, significant others, relatives, roommates, etc. If the situation seems especially serious, the court will issue a temporary protective order and schedule a hearing to discuss whether a more permanent protective order should be signed. Law enforcement officers have the authority to immediately arrest, without warrant, someone who has violated a protective order.

Templates of the court forms necessary to ask for a protective order or fight against a protective order are available on the UT Courts website. Self-representation is possible, but it is wise to hire an attorney to give you advice, help you prepare the forms relevant to your situation, and appear in court with you.

Protective orders can be transferred from state to state. Persons with a protective order who are relocating to a state in which the protective order was not originally issued will want to have readily available copies of the protective order and will want to contact the local court or a local lawyer to inquire as to what they must do to register the protective order locally.

Restraining Orders

Restraining orders are specific orders often included in divorce decrees and other similar or related decrees, judgments, and orders. A court may order the parties going through a divorce to not sell their assets while the divorce case is ongoing. The court may also order the parties not to bother each other or engage in some other behavior that the court has determined is inappropriate or harmful.

The primary difference between a protective order and restraining order is that the police will not arrest somebody who is accused of violating a restraining order. If one party violates the restraining order, the other party will need to complain to the court and ask the court to find the violating party in contempt of the court’s order. Jail time, an award of attorney fees, or other remedies may result if the person who violated the restraining order does not have a good explanation.

How Restraining Orders and Protective Orders Can Affect Your Divorce
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