Best Interest of the Child – Davis County Adoptions

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real People. Real Solutions.

Best Interest of the Child – Davis County Adoptions

When adopting a child, the courts in Davis County are required to consider the best interest of the child who is the subject of the adoption petition. Under Utah Code 78B-6-102 the child’s best interest “shall govern and be of foremost concern in the court’s determination.” In other words, the legislature intends that the most important consideration in the adoption process is not what the birth parents, adopting parents, or any other party may want. The court instead has to look at what is going to be best for the child. Period.

If you are considering an adoption or if you have already begun the process on your own, the assistance of a good adoption attorney can be important. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

General Considerations

In Utah, the adoption law requires that the court hearing the adoption petition consider the best interest of the child being adopted. Based on information available to the court relating to the “health, safety, and welfare” of the child, as well as the “moral climate of the prospective adoptive placement,” the court is required to make specific findings of fact relating to the best interest of the child. In cases involving uncontested adoptions, a determination of what is in the best interest of the child may be mostly a formality. Though somewhat rare, cases where multiple parties have petitioned to adopt the same child (often relatives from two different sides of a family), what is in the child’s best interest is a question that may be hotly contested.

Criminal Record / Abuse History

In considering the best interest of the child, the court will require that the adopting parent provide the court with a recent BCI criminal history report as well as a report from the Department of Child and Family Services regarding information in the Utah Child Abuse/Neglect Registry. Utah Code 78B-6-117 establishes certain “disqualifying” criminal offenses that will bar a prospective parent from adopting a minor child. These include felony or attempted felony child abuse, sexual offenses, child kidnapping, and child abuse homicide. With the exception of those offenses specifically listed in Utah Code 78B-6-117, most other convictions or supported allegations of abuse or neglect do not create an absolute bar to adoption. Instead, these among a variety of factors that the court will consider in determining the best interest of the child.


Cohabitation (defined by the legislature as “residing with another person and being involved in a sexual relationship with that person”) can affect a person’s eligibility to adopt. Utah’s legislature has made special legislative findings regarding cohabitation as it relates to the issue of the “best interest” of a child. The Utah legislature has explicitly stated that it is “not in a child’s best interest to be adopted by a person or persons who are cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage [under Utah law].” In addition to these legislative findings, Utah Code 78B-6-117 further provides a bar to adoption of a child by any person who is involved in unmarried cohabitation.

While there are other rules relating to adoptions by a single person, the rule regarding cohabitation is the only outright prohibition the legislature has attempted to impose. As case law, statutes, and constitutional interpretations change in relation to families and marriage, it remains to be seen whether the courts will uphold this policy.

Finding an Adoption Attorney in Davis County

Serving clients in Davis County and throughout Utah, we are pleased to help families through the adoption process. If you have considered beginning the adoption process, contact us today to see how we can help.