What does a parent need to provide for raising a well-adjusted child? If you read the court-ordered evaluator recommendation in a random Utah custody case, it would seem as though “religion” and “morals” are the most important factors. In fact, the rules for Utah custody evaluations list many other things (with religion being one of about a dozen listed criteria). Shortly, that list includes: child’s preference, siblings, desire and bond, history, moral character, emotional stability, personal attention, drugs/alcohol use, religion, finances, and abuse.
What Utah rule (4-903) fails to list as important to child rearing is more interesting. It has nothing on education, nothing on nutrition, nothing on immediate physical environment. That doesn’t mean a psychologist cannot evaluate those things. However, the state does not require them.
Let me reiterate here the criteria of Utah Custody evaluation so you can assess that the great state of Deseret, aka Utah, is lopsided on education, nutrition and safety over that of "religious compatibility" and "morals".
Utah State Law, Rule 4-903, includes 15 items:
(5) The purpose of the custody evaluation will be to provide the court with information it can use to make decisions regarding custody and parenting time arrangements that are in the child’s best interest. …Unless otherwise specified in the order, evaluators must consider and respond to each of the following factors:
(5)(A) the child's preference;
(5)(B) the benefit of keeping siblings together;
(5)(C) the relative strength of the child's bond with one or both of the prospective custodians;
(5)(D) the general interest in continuing previously determined custody arrangements where the child is happy and well adjusted;
(5)(E) factors relating to the prospective custodians' character or status or their capacity or willingness to function as parents, including:
(5)(E)(i) moral character and emotional stability;
(5)(E)(ii) duration and depth of desire for custody;
(5)(E)(iii) ability to provide personal rather than surrogate care;
(5)(E)(iv) significant impairment of ability to function as a parent through drug abuse, excessive drinking or other causes;
(5)(E)(v) reasons for having relinquished custody in the past;
(5)(E)(vi) religious compatibility with the child;
(5)(E)(vii) kinship, including in extraordinary circumstances
(5)(E)(viii) financial condition; and
(5)(E)(ix) evidence of abuse of the subject child, another
child, or spouse; and
(5)(F) any other factors deemed important by the evaluator, the parties, or the court.
Religion and “moral character” are more important in Utah custody cases than health—than nutrition and a safe physical environment, the latter which do not appear in the rule. Religion is even more important according to Utah’s 4-903 than education. The words, "nutrition", "health", "education", "safety", and "environment" appear nowhere in rule 4-903, while "religious", "moral" and other like criteria do appear.
What the hell? Only in Utah, apparently. I hope the Utah judicial bar who see so many cases of neglect can persuade the legislature that their idealistic views are not helping families.
Any decently educated psychologist and sociologist knows the importance of good food, physical safety and proper education on the best interest of a child's well being. Publications at the National Institutes of Health (US) clearly state, for example, that:
“There is no aspect of our physical or psychological existence that is not affected in some way by nutrition. A profound lack of nutrition would obviously have a negative influence on all aspects of [child] development, and such effects of malnutrition are well documented.”
However, Utah's legislature doesn’t even seem to care. Education, smeducation—phaw! Nutrition, shrewmunition—meh! Utah-Utard! What will it take for the family courts to encourage their own legislatures to change the code so that education and nutrition have an equal stage with religion and "moral character"?
Gallup Poll -- Are we due for a new one here in 2015?
Let's hope there's a downward trend.