Utah State Courts: Protecting or Exploiting Children in Custody Battles

Laurie Ann Henderson

Abstract


Children have very little voice and no recourse when their parents’ battle in the courtroom. The State of Utah currently has 4,317 divorce/annulment cases for 2011. When divorce occurs, the marital assets are attempted to be split equitably. Children are often caught in this situation through no fault of their own. According to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of a Child in 1989, the United States ranked last among industrialized nations in protecting a child’s rights. A preliminary survey was administered to Westminster College students Spring 2011 to determine what percentage of students here had undergone a custody battle as a child. Purpose: The purpose of this research was to help create awareness of a child’s plight while caught in custody battles verifying they do not continue to slip through the cracks but have the emotional support needed to make the necessary adjustments to a new lifestyle. Research Questions: The main research question was to determine if children’s needs are currently being met, if there is follow-up from the courts to verify the children are safe, and if the “best interests” of the children are served. Methods: The methods utilized for this research were multi-mode: primary data collection and content analysis of secondary sources. Results: The preliminary study at Westminster College reported 10% of the students polled had been caught in a custody battle as a child. The majority of students’ polled felt that their needs had not been met or even addressed through the process. Because of the amount of hearings taking place in the courthouse, we have learned that a substantial percentage of children are slipping through the cracks not knowing where to turn for financial, mental, emotional, and psychological support. Through the database Xchange, 62.5% of the cases acted in the best interests of the child whereas the interviews demonstrated that no one was satisfied with the outcomes of the court; including those who “won” their case. Mediation is a much better alternative to a trial.

Keywords


Custody; Child; Court’s “Best Interests”

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