Divorce and Family Law a Hot Topic on Capitol Hill in 2014
There are many proposals before the Utah State Legislature during the 2014 session to enact new laws and to change existing laws governing divorce and family law, specifically visitation with children.
House Bill 375 (entitled “Parent-Time after Relocation of a Parent”) is sponsored by Representative Gage Froerer (R - Huntsville) and proposes to amend and clarify visitation (now called “parent-time”) when a parent moves out of state of more than 150 miles from the other parent. As currently enacted, the part of Utah Code § 30-3-37 proposed for amendment reads:
(6) Unless otherwise ordered by the court, upon the relocation . . . of one of the parties the following schedule shall be the minimum requirements for parent-time with a school-age child: . . .
Some parents have argued over what the age of a “school-age child” is, and so Rep. Froerer’s amendment would clarify the definition to mean children age 5 to 18 and would read as follows:
(6) Unless otherwise ordered by the court, upon the relocation . . . of one of the parties the following schedule shall be the minimum requirements for parent-time for children 5 to 18 years of age: . . .
House Bill 201 (“Visitation Amendments”) is sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen (R – Draper). His bill would define what “supervised parent-time” s and also enact § 30-3-34.5 and describe the conditions under which a court can order supervised parent-time, and create a process for selecting persons to supervise parent-time.
§ 30-3-34.5 would allow court to order supervised parent-time only if the court determines that the child would be subject to physical, psychological, or emotional danger or child abuse from the noncustodial parent if left unsupervised with the noncustodial parent.
H.B. 201 would define “supervised parent-time” to mean parent-time “that requires the noncustodial parent to be accompanied during parent-time by an individual approved by the court.”
Among other things that H.B. 201 would do is limit supervised parent-time by paid service only if the court finds that there is no suitable relative or recommended individual willing and able to fulfill the role of supervisor, and a paid service provider could not be used if it were to cause undue financial hardship.
H.B. 201 would also expressly recognize supervised parent-time as temporary, not a means for causing or contributing to destruction of family relationships, and would provide that a noncustodial parent would be entitled to restoration of unsupervised parent-time due to correction of the conditions upon which the previous order of supervision was based.
Rep. Christensen has also proposed H.B. 418 (“Rights of Relatives to Child Visitation”), which would, if passed, enact the Postadoption Visitation for Relatives Act, a law that would permit a relative of a child who has been adopted by another relative to petition the court for visitation with the child. Specifically, H.B. 418 would allow a court may override the adoptive parent's decision to deny a blood relative of the adopted child rights of visitation if the court finds that the blood relative proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the relative is a fit to have visitation; the adoptive parent’s denial of visitation was unreasonable; the relative seeking visitation has acted as the child's custodian or caregiver, or otherwise has had a substantial relationship with the child; the loss or cessation of that relationship is likely to harm the child; and that visitation with the relative is in the best interest of the child.