In Utah, grandparents have the right to file for visitation or custody with their grandchildren in particular circumstances. This area of law is much more complicated due to new laws which make it more difficult for the grandparent(s) if the parent(s) object. The grandparents have to prove “significant harm” in order to prevail in their case.
4 Ways Grandparents can get Visitation or Custody in Utah
For grandparents looking for the most simple avenue to get custody of their grandchildren, guardianship is what they will want to file in court. What guardianship does is to allow grandparents custody of the grandchildren and also to make decisions on their behalf. Under guardianship, grandparents act as the parents but need written consent from the parents in order to allow them guardianship. If they cannot get a written consent from the parents, they would need to prove that the parents are not capable of taking care of the children due to being missing, dead, incapacitated, or their rights have been terminated.
In either scenario, if the parents protest, the case will most likely be dismissed and the grandparents will have to pursue other legal avenues for custody.
2) Juvenile Court Appointed
When juvenile court finds the parent or parents to be unfit to care for the children, custody may be awarded to the grandparents. This is a common way that many grandparents have gained custody of the grandchildren. It is normally initiated by CPS (Child Protective Services) and goes through the court process, instead of being initiated by the grandparents themselves.
3) Custody for Persons Other Than a Parent Act
The law in Utah allows grandparents to file an independent lawsuit in order to gain custody rights. This law is called “Custody for Persons Other than a Parent Act” and requires the grandparents to show the following:
(a) they intentionally assumed the role and obligations of a parent; (b) formed an emotional bond and created a parent-child type relationship with the child; (c) contributed emotionally or financially to the child’s well being; (d) their assumption of the parental role is not the result of a financially compensated surrogate care arrangement; (e) continuation of their relationship with the child would be in the child’s best interests; (f) loss or cessation of that relationship would be detrimental to the child; and (g) the parent: (i) is absent; or (ii) is found by a court to have abused or neglected the child.
4) Grandparent Visitation Act
Finally, a statute in Utah allows grandparents to file for visitation rights of the grandchildren. The law states that the grandparents need to generally show: (a) the petitioner is a fit and proper person to have visitation with the grandchild; (b) visitation with the grandchild has been denied or unreasonably limited; (c) the parent is unfit or incompetent; (d) the petitioner has acted as the grandchild’s custodian or caregiver, or otherwise has had a substantial relationship with the grandchild, and the loss or cessation of that relationship is likely to cause harm to the grandchild; (e) the petitioner’s child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has died, or has become a noncustodial parent through divorce or legal separation; (f) the petitioner’s child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has been missing for an extended period of time; or (g) visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild.
Every case is different from the next, so it is important to hire an experienced child custody attorney in family law to answer questions you may have, while guiding you through the process that can be much more complicated than first anticipated.