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Utah man proposes bill to change custody law to 50-50

Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 10:44:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man and a team of attorneys are hoping to push a bill through the House and Senate committees that deals with custody agreements.

Phil Casper never thought his marriage would end or that he would be fighting for the right to see his kids.

"I always asked myself, why did this happen to me? I thought this only happened to bad people, to the 'deadbeat dads,'" said Casper.

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For a while, Casper said he and his ex-wife split custody fifty-fifty, but then Casper said she changed her mind, receiving sole custody. The two eventually agreed again to the 50-50 custody agreement.

"I always felt like a good dad and my kids didn’t really have a choice in the matter," said Casper.

The bill seeks to change a law that Casper said makes it hard for children from getting equal time with their parents.

Senator Jacob Anderegg is sponsoring the bill, which aims to make the standard custody fifty-fifty but can be changed for the interest of the child.

Sen. Anderegg's bill strikes out much of the current language of the law, something Brown said eliminates important legal language that could end up hurting the children in a divorce situation.

"When I interviewed with attorneys for my case, the said you're not going to get fifty-fifty, you're in Utah," said Casper.

Current family law allows for a sixty-forty custody split or an eighty-twenty split, according to Marco Brown who's been a divorce attorney in Utah for the past decade.

"If you’re a man, and you want to get fifty-fifty with your kids it’s an uphill battle," said Brown.

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The current law focuses on the children, rather than the parents.

"About fifty-fifty parent time seems very fair between the parents the husband and the wife, not necessarily fair for the children who have to live in this situation," said Brown.

Senator Todd Weiler opposes the bill but does not reject Casper's idea of fifty-fifty custody.

"Every family is unique and is different," said Weiler. "What if the parents live 50 miles apart? What if it’s a newborn baby nursing with the mother and the father lives with 18-year-old roommates?"

Sen. Weiler is writing a substitute bill to introduce with Casper's idea, just written up differently.

The re-write by Sen. Weiler would give judges a third option for custody, rather than to set an automatic standard.

"This would introduce the fifty-fifty and it would be another toll in the toolbox for the judge to pick," said Sen. Weiler.

The substitute bill is expected to be completed by Friday, giving enough time for it to be voted on by the end of the legislative session.