Family Law

Family Law

“Nobody wins when a judge makes decisions in a family law case. I try to help you reach an agreement before a judge gets involved. This helps everybody win – especially when children are concerned.”

– Thomas Howard


If you make an appointment to meet with us for a divorce, download and print the form below, fill it out, and bring it with you.

DIVORCE QUESTIONNAIRE (PDF)


Park City, Utah attorney Thomas Howard draws on effective mediation skills in his family law practice to assist clients in family law cases negotiate issues that arise in divorce, such as property division, child custody, child visitation, child support and alimony.

 

Thomas Howard honed his ability to help people resolve their differences during a 10-year career in the aerospace industry, where he was a senior contract administrator negotiating multimillion-dollar government contracts. As an attorney, he chaired the first Utah Mediation Conference in Salt Lake City in 1990.

 

According to Thomas Howard, negotiated settlements typically have far more ongoing success than those ordered by courts. “Eighty-five percent of people abide by agreements when they enter into those agreements voluntarily. Only about 15 percent abide by an agreement if a judge orders it.”

 

Thomas Howard also helps clients in post-divorce actions, such as modifications to child support and visitation, and enforcement actions when a spouse fails to provide child support, alimony or visitation.

 

Protecting Children

When working with families, Thomas Howard’s biggest concern is to protect the children throughout the divorce process. It’s important for parents to remember that they will to be co-parenting after they are divorced, and that an amicable resolution will facilitate improved relations with your ex-spouse over time. As a family law attorney, Thomas Howard uses his mediation skills to help bring the two parties toward a mutual resolution that will enable them work together as parents later.

 

When divorce attorneys pit children against feuding parents, it is ultimately the children that end up losing the most in divorce because they become pawns in their parents’ proceeding. It’s important to have a lawyer who will care about your kids and protect them as much as possible from their parents’ legal actions.

 

With refined mediation skills with extensive litigation experience, Thomas Howard is better able to persuade opposing parties to reach a mutual and negotiated settlement.

 

Child Support

There are more than 13 million divorced parents with sole custody of their minor children in America. Federal legislation and uniform state laws exist to make enforcement and collection of child support easier for America’s single parents. Every state uses its own guidelines for establishing child support and each has various methods to set support amounts and recover support when it is overdue.

 

It is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you need help with a child support related issue. An attorney with experience in the area of child support will help you understand the laws in your state and the rules for child support collection and enforcement that apply to your particular situation, whether you are ending a marriage or are already divorced, have questions about paternity or are the parent paying support.

 

Divorce

Deciding to pursue divorce is one of the most difficult and emotional decisions you will ever make, particularly if you have children. Divorce also involves business and legal questions that must be resolved. An experienced family law attorney will help you to understand the basic issues and use a rational perspective to approach the process.

 

Grounds for Divorce

Traditionally, every state required a person filing for divorce to prove “grounds” or some type of spousal fault in order to obtain a divorce. Today, the majority of states allow at least one form of “no-fault” divorce, which does not require proof of fault. If no-fault divorce is available in your state, either member of the couple may obtain a divorce, even if the other party does not consent to the divorce.

 

Custody & Visitation

When parents divorce, they need to learn the child custody and visitation options that are available to them and the legal standards applied to the different options. In most cases, divorcing couples are ultimately able to agree on custody and visitation issues without the need for a court order. When an agreement cannot be reached, knowledgeable advice and representation from an experienced family law attorney often makes the difference.

 

Custody Basics

The set of parental responsibilities regarding day-to-day care of the child as well as the rights to direct the child’s daily activities is known legally as physical custody. Legal custody means the rights and responsibilities associated with decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

 

There are many options regarding the division of these rights and responsibilities between divorcing parents. More and more, courts are encouraging parents to continue working together to raise their children even after their marriage has ended. Common custody solutions include:

 

  • Sole Custody: Sole physical custody occurs when one parent retains the exclusive, primary right to have the child live with him or her. Sole legal custody is the exclusive right to control the child’s upbringing. The most common type of sole custody currently occurring is sole physical custody with joint legal custody and a generous visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. When one parent ends up with primary responsibility for the couple’s children, the other parent (known as the non-custodial parent) usually has rights to maintain contact with the children through ongoing visitation.
  • Joint Custody: In joint custody, parents share responsibility for decision-making and/or physical control and custody of the children.
  • Split Custody: A less popular resolution where each parent takes custody of different children.
  • Shared Parenting: This new concept in child custody has recently been adopted by several states. In shared parenting, children usually spend equal amounts of time with both parents and parents share legal and physical custody.

 

Determining Custody and Visitation

Divorcing couples often tackle custody and visitation issues as soon as they separate. Courts generally honor both the long and short-term custody arrangements of parents when they reach agreements about their children. When couples can’t agree, procedures exist throughout the divorce process to resolve custody conflicts.

 

  • Temporary Hearing: The family court hold a temporary hearing shortly after the initial papers are filed. If custody is contested at this point, the court will issue an order deciding custody that will be in effect until the court enters its final Divorce Decree.
  • Custody and Mandatory Mediation: Most states now require parties in a contested divorce to attempt mediation, an alternative dispute resolution process where divorcing couples work with a specialty trained neutral third party to try and resolve some or all of their agreements. Couples who resolve their custody disputes through mediation can include a provision in their final divorce agreement that makes it mandatory to return, as a means of resolving future custody and visitation disputes.
  • Custody Evaluations: If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding custody, most courts will order a custody evaluation prior to trial by an outside expert for assistance in reaching a determination regarding what arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
  • Custody Trial: Every state has statutes and procedures for the legal resolution of disputed child custody. Most courts decide contested custody cases based upon a determination of what arrangement is in the best interests of the child which includes a review of such things as the child’s age and attachment to the parent that has been the primary caretaker, parental physical and mental health, any history of domestic violence and the child’s wishes depending upon the age of the child and the motivation for the preference.

 

Changing Custody and Visitation

Once custody and schedule of visitation has been reached, either by the court or the couple, usually specific procedures must be followed in order to change the arrangement. If couples have reached an agreement through mediation, they may have to go back to mediation in order to make any modifications. Custody established through court order requires additional court involvement. In order to support a request for a change the parent seeking the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances. Some states will only consider a request for modifications within two years of an original custody determination if there is a showing that the child is endangered by the ordered custody arrangement and some states place residency limitations on requests to prevent parents from shopping for friendly rulings in different states.

 

Conclusion

The resolution of child custody and visitation disputes requires separating parents to act rationally in their child’s best interests at a time when they are facing the overwhelming stress of divorce. Advice from an experienced family law attorney will help you understand the options available to you in your particular situation and make a plan that will serve the best interests of you and your children.

 

Call to schedule an appointment:  (435) 649-4660
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