S.B. 227





Chief Sponsor: Todd Weiler

House Sponsor: Curtis Oda

             7      LONG TITLE
             8      General Description:
             9          This bill amends provisions related to factors a court shall consider in a child custody
             10      determination and in a termination of parental rights proceeding.
             11      Highlighted Provisions:
             12          This bill:
             13          .    provides that a district court shall consider, when determining child custody in a
             14      separation or divorce, whether the parent has exposed the child to pornography or
             15      material harmful to a child; and
             16          .    provides that a juvenile court shall consider, when determining whether to terminate
             17      a parent's rights, whether the parent has exposed the child to pornography or
             18      material harmful to a minor.
             19      Money Appropriated in this Bill:
             20          None
             21      Other Special Clauses:
             22          None
             23      Utah Code Sections Affected:
             24      AMENDS:
             25           30-3-10 , as last amended by Laws of Utah 2013, Chapter 22
             26           78A-6-508 , as last amended by Laws of Utah 2009, Chapter 161

             28      Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
             29          Section 1. Section 30-3-10 is amended to read:
             30           30-3-10. Custody of children in case of separation or divorce -- Custody
             31      consideration.
             32          (1) If a husband and wife having minor children are separated, or their marriage is
             33      declared void or dissolved, the court shall make an order for the future care and custody of the
             34      minor children as it considers appropriate.
             35          (a) In determining any form of custody, including a change in custody, the court shall
             36      consider the best interests of the child without preference for either the mother or father solely
             37      because of the biological sex of the parent and, among other factors the court finds relevant, the
             38      following:
             39          (i) the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each of the parties;
             40          (ii) which parent is most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including
             41      allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent;
             42          (iii) the extent of bonding between the parent and child, meaning the depth, quality,
             43      and nature of the relationship between a parent and child; [and]
             44          (iv) whether the parent has exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to a
             45      minor, as defined in Section 76-10-1201 ; and
             46          [(iv)] (v) those factors outlined in Section 30-3-10.2 .
             47          (b) There shall be a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody, as defined in
             48      Section 30-3-10.1 , is in the best interest of the child, except in cases where there is:
             49          (i) domestic violence in the home or in the presence of the child;
             50          (ii) special physical or mental needs of a parent or child, making joint legal custody
             51      unreasonable;
             52          (iii) physical distance between the residences of the parents, making joint decision
             53      making impractical in certain circumstances; or
             54          (iv) any other factor the court considers relevant including those listed in this section
             55      and Section 30-3-10.2 .
             56          (c) The person who desires joint legal custody shall file a proposed parenting plan in
             57      accordance with Sections 30-3-10.8 and 30-3-10.9 . A presumption for joint legal custody may
             58      be rebutted by a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that it is not in the best interest of

             59      the child.
             60          (d) The children may not be required by either party to testify unless the trier of fact
             61      determines that extenuating circumstances exist that would necessitate the testimony of the
             62      children be heard and there is no other reasonable method to present their testimony.
             63          (e) The court may inquire of the children and take into consideration the children's
             64      desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not
             65      controlling and the court may determine the children's custody or parent-time otherwise. The
             66      desires of a child 14 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single
             67      controlling factor.
             68          (f) If interviews with the children are conducted by the court pursuant to Subsection
             69      (1)(e), they shall be conducted by the judge in camera. The prior consent of the parties may be
             70      obtained but is not necessary if the court finds that an interview with the children is the only
             71      method to ascertain the child's desires regarding custody.
             72          (2) In awarding custody, the court shall consider, among other factors the court finds
             73      relevant, which parent is most likely to act in the best interests of the child, including allowing
             74      the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent as the court finds
             75      appropriate.
             76          (3) If the court finds that one parent does not desire custody of the child, the court shall
             77      take that evidence into consideration in determining whether to award custody to the other
             78      parent.
             79          (4) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (4)(b), a court may not discriminate against a
             80      parent due to a disability, as defined in Section 57-21-2 , in awarding custody or determining
             81      whether a substantial change has occurred for the purpose of modifying an award of custody.
             82          (b) If a court takes a parent's disability into account in awarding custody or determining
             83      whether a substantial change has occurred for the purpose of modifying an award of custody,
             84      the parent with a disability may rebut any evidence, presumption, or inference arising from the
             85      disability by showing that:
             86          (i) the disability does not significantly or substantially inhibit the parent's ability to
             87      provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue; or
             88          (ii) the parent with a disability has sufficient human, monetary, or other resources
             89      available to supplement the parent's ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of

             90      the child at issue.
             91          (c) Nothing in this section may be construed to apply to adoption proceedings under
             92      Title 78B, Chapter 6, Part 1, Utah Adoption Act.
             93          (5) This section establishes neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint
             94      physical custody or sole physical custody, but allows the court and the family the widest
             95      discretion to choose a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.
             96          Section 2. Section 78A-6-508 is amended to read:
             97           78A-6-508. Evidence of grounds for termination.
             98          (1) In determining whether a parent or parents have abandoned a child, it is prima facie
             99      evidence of abandonment that the parent or parents:
             100          (a) although having legal custody of the child, have surrendered physical custody of the
             101      child, and for a period of six months following the surrender have not manifested to the child
             102      or to the person having the physical custody of the child a firm intention to resume physical
             103      custody or to make arrangements for the care of the child;
             104          (b) have failed to communicate with the child by mail, telephone, or otherwise for six
             105      months;
             106          (c) failed to have shown the normal interest of a natural parent, without just cause; or
             107          (d) have abandoned an infant, as described in Subsection 78A-6-316 (1).
             108          (2) In determining whether a parent or parents are unfit or have neglected a child the
             109      court shall consider, but is not limited to, the following circumstances, conduct, or conditions:
             110          (a) emotional illness, mental illness, or mental deficiency of the parent that renders the
             111      parent unable to care for the immediate and continuing physical or emotional needs of the child
             112      for extended periods of time;
             113          (b) conduct toward a child of a physically, emotionally, or sexually cruel or abusive
             114      nature;
             115          (c) habitual or excessive use of intoxicating liquors, controlled substances, or
             116      dangerous drugs that render the parent unable to care for the child;
             117          (d) repeated or continuous failure to provide the child with adequate food, clothing,
             118      shelter, education, or other care necessary for the child's physical, mental, and emotional health
             119      and development by a parent or parents who are capable of providing that care;
             120          (e) whether the parent is incarcerated as a result of conviction of a felony, and the

             121      sentence is of such length that the child will be deprived of a normal home for more than one
             122      year; [or]
             123          (f) a history of violent behavior[.]; or
             124          (g) whether the parent has exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to a
             125      minor, as defined in Section 76-10-1201 .
             126          (3) A parent who, legitimately practicing the parent's religious beliefs, does not provide
             127      specified medical treatment for a child is not, for that reason alone, a negligent or unfit parent.
             128          (4) (a) Notwithstanding Subsection (2), a parent may not be considered neglectful or
             129      unfit because of a health care decision made for a child by the child's parent unless the state or
             130      other party to the proceeding shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that the health care
             131      decision is not reasonable and informed.
             132          (b) Nothing in Subsection (4)(a) may prohibit a parent from exercising the right to
             133      obtain a second health care opinion.
             134          (5) If a child has been placed in the custody of the division and the parent or parents
             135      fail to comply substantially with the terms and conditions of a plan within six months after the
             136      date on which the child was placed or the plan was commenced, whichever occurs later, that
             137      failure to comply is evidence of failure of parental adjustment.
             138          (6) The following circumstances constitute prima facie evidence of unfitness:
             139          (a) sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, injury, or death of a sibling of the child, or of any
             140      child, due to known or substantiated abuse or neglect by the parent or parents;
             141          (b) conviction of a crime, if the facts surrounding the crime are of such a nature as to
             142      indicate the unfitness of the parent to provide adequate care to the extent necessary for the
             143      child's physical, mental, or emotional health and development;
             144          (c) a single incident of life-threatening or gravely disabling injury to or disfigurement
             145      of the child;
             146          (d) the parent has committed, aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to
             147      commit murder or manslaughter of a child or child abuse homicide; or
             148          (e) the parent intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes the death of another parent
             149      of the child, without legal justification.

Legislative Review Note
    as of 2-20-14 10:27 AM

Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel

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