OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – As South Ogden Police look for a woman, who they say is being charged with kidnapping her son for not complying with a court-ordered custody exchange, one lawyer explains how custody orders can be used to protect children and parents alike.
“That court document is really important when there is a disagreement and especially if the police need to get involved,” Jonathan Felt told ABC4. Felt is an attorney and mediator with Felt Family Law and Mediation in Ogden.
When a couple with children (married or unmarried) decides to separate, Felt explained that there are steps the couple should take to ensure the process surrounding child custody goes as smoothly as possible. The first step, he said, is for that couple to seek mediation.
“It’s required by state courts,” Felt stated. “In order to go to a trial, you have to go to mediation first anyway.” He added that doing this as soon as possible may end up saving couples time, money, and even help to maintain a cordial relationship between parents. “I tell people a lot, if you are already agreeing on almost everything, go to mediation right away before something happens.”
Felt added: “Too many times, I’ve seen people who were doing great, had no issues for even year, and then suddenly there is an issue and now we’re fighting in court instead of getting everything resolved and on paper right away.”
During mediation, couples may be able to come to an early agreement and get the custody order created quicker than it may have otherwise been. The order then sets definitive instructions for the parents as they begin to share custody of their child(ren). Felt said, “It tells both parents what the rules are, what they can and can’t do, and most of the time they’re crafted to protect both of the parents equally.”
Should the cordial relationship among parents sour in the future, the custody order may provide additional security if the police need to become involved. Felt further explained: “If there is no court document, most of the time the police can only say, ‘I’m sorry, there is no order, there is nothing I can do about this. You need to take it to the court.’”