Supervised Parent-time in Utah: How Does it Work?

Most divorce and child custody cases involve relatively normal people who simply don't get along anymore. Neither person is particularly bad; instead, the relationship just doesn't work and everyone wants out.

Then there are those cases in which someone has done something particularly egregious that really affects the children's safety. In these sorts of cases, supervised visitation is an option.

It used to be you could ask for and be granted supervised visitation in Utah for any number of mildly bad (but not particularly egregious) behaviors. The supervision requirement would stay in place for months, and many times years.

This all changed in May of 2014 when the Utah Legislature passed Utah Code, Section 30-3-34.5. Section 30-3-34.5 was passed specifically address the problem of Courts being a little too free in ordering supervised parent-time. To underscore the right of a parent to unsupervised time with his or her child, Section 34.5 states supervised parent-time is available only when "necessary to protect a child and no less restrictive means is reasonably available." On top of this, courts must find "evidence that the child would be subject to physical or emotional harm or child abuse . . . from the noncustodial parent if left unsupervised with the noncustodial parent."

This is a high bar to hurdle. First, you must prove -- not just allege, but prove -- to the Court the noncustodial parent would physically abuse or emotionally harm your children if left alone with them for any significant period of time. Then, you must prove no less restrictive means is available for keeping your kids safe. "No less restrictive means" is legal code for, "the Court is not going to do this unless you prove every other option is unavailable."

What all this really means is supervised visitation is reserved for the worst situations involving actual danger to children. So, if your husband is addicted to porn, but the children have never been exposed, he won't have supervised parent-time. If your wife gets her third DUI, but she has never driven impaired with the children and has no means to drive because her license is suspend, she won't have supervised parent-time. On the other hand, if your spouse has an ongoing, untreated drug problem, and has done drugs in the home when the children were around, then there's a good chance for supervised visitation.

But, even if supervised parent-time is ordered, the Court must develop a specific plan to lift the supervision requirement. The Court must also schedule follow-up hearings to assess the parent's progress toward the goals and expectations laid out in the plan. When the goals are met, supervision will end. And if a parent feels he or she has met the goals, the parent can request a hearing at any time to discuss lifting the supervision requirements.

In the end, if you want your spouse/children's parent to have supervised parent-time, you better have a good reason and a good attorney. It is very difficult for people representing themselves to prove all the requirements in Section 30-3-34.5. If you do have a good reason, however, then supervised parent-time could be a very effective tool for keeping your children safe until the other parent overcomes whatever is putting the children in danger.

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