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Family Law Update - July 2015

July 28, 2015

The Court discusses custody and parent-time below the statutory minimums.

Brown v. Babbitt, 2015 UT App 161

Utah Court of Appeals

Attorneys: Terry Spencer, J. Preston Stieff

Summary: Babbit appealed an order granting him less than minimum statutory parent-time and requiring it to be supervised. The decision is affirmed.

Holding (Custody and Parent-Time):

First Argument: U.C.A. § 30-3-32 makes clear that absent a showing of real harm or substantiated potential harm to the child, it is in the best interest of the child to have frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with both parents. However, it was not enough to say that below minimum parent-time and supervised parent-time triggered this section and required specific findings. Instead, the appellant needed to argue that the orders deprived him or the child of frequent, meaningful, and continuing access to one another or that it precluded him from being actively involved in parenting his child. He did not do that, so specific findings under U.C.A. § 30-3-32 were not required.

Second Argument: U.C.A. § 30-3-34 provides that statutory minimum parent-time schedule is presumed to be in the best interest of a child unless a parent can establish otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence that more or less parent-time should be awarded based upon any of fourteen specific criteria or any other criteria the court determines relevant to the best interests of the child. The court properly found that minimum parent-time was not in the child’s best interest under this statute because the evidence showed 1) he lacked an appropriate bond with the child; 2) his behavior indicated his intent to kidnap the child; 3) he secretly fed the child milk formula in violation of court order; 4) he made no attempt to contact the child for nearly a year and it appeared he did that to build his custodial-interference case; 5) he has three other children with whom he has no relationship; and 6) he had been jailed multiple times for failure to pay child support.

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