How to File for a Divorce In Utah
Table of Contents
- Requirements to file for a Utah divorce
- Grounds for a Utah divorce
- HELPFUL TIPS!
- STEP 1: HOW TO INITIATE A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
- STEP 2: UT LEGAL NOTICE PROCESS
- STEP 3:CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
- STEP 4: WHICH OPTION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
- STEP 5: RESOLVING THE MAJOR ISSUES
- STEP 6: FINALIZING YOUR UT DIVORCE
Requirements to file for a Utah divorce
- Utah allows you to divorce based on irreconcilable differences.
- You or your spouse must have resided in the state of Utah for at least three months prior to filing for divorce.
- If you are parents of a minor child, you or your spouse must have resided in Utah for at least 6 months prior to filing, although the courts may make exceptions in certain circumstances.
- You may need to attend a Divorce Education class if you are parents of minor children.
Grounds for a Utah divorce
- As in most states, Utah divorce law allows you to obtain a no-fault divorce. You must merely demonstrate that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.
- Utah also allows you to seek a divorce if your spouse has committed one of the following:
- inability to perform sexually upon marriage
- willful desertion for at least 12 months
- willful neglect
- habitual intoxication
- felony conviction
- extreme cruelty
- incurable insanity
- If you have a minor child in the household, you must have resided in Utah for at least 6 months prior to seeking a divorce. If there are no minor dependents, then this requirement is shortened to 3 months.
- Filing for divorce in Utah can be a headache without the proper guidance. Using an online divorce service for paperwork can make the process easier, faster and can save you money. At only $159, MyDivorcePapers.com can save you hundreds or thousands in legal fees.
- If you have any questions regarding the divorce procedure in Utah, you can find free legal assistance at Avvo.com.
- If you cannot pay the filing fees, you may petition the court for a fee waiver. You will need to submit a detailed description of your assets, debts, and income on the petition.
- There is a minimum of 90 days between filing the Verified Complaint about Divorce and issuance of the Decree of Divorce
HOW TO INITIATE A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
There are primarily two types of divorce in Utah: contested and uncontested.
If you and your spouse can agree on all of the issues in the divorce including the disposition of assets and liabilities, child custody, and spousal support, you qualify for the uncontested divorce process. This is a faster process because you typically do not need to appear in court unless you have children; if you have children, you will need to attend a short hearing regarding custody, support, and visitation.
You will need to file a Verified Complaint for Divorce with the clerk of your local county court to start this process. Utah even has an online filing system that may allow you speed up the initial filing procedure.
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on issues related to the divorce, you will follow a similar filing procedure. However, you and your spouse will have to attend a hearing shortly thereafter to help identify what issues remain unresolved. The judge will then schedule a jury or bench trial, at which you and your spouse may argue your claims.
UT LEGAL NOTICE PROCESS
Divorce is a legal action that one spouse takes against the other, and that requires proper notification of the other party. You must provide copies of the following documents to your spouse within 120 days of filing the original complaint:
- Copy of Verified Complaint for Divorce
- Copy of Court Summons
- Copy of Temporary Injunctions
The following methods of service are available in Utah:
- By mail—you may send your papers to your spouse via the U.S. Postal Service using registered or certified mail, or any commercial courier service that uses return receipts to confirm delivery. Your spouse must sign for the documents.
- Personal service—you may deliver the divorce papers using a private process server, local sheriff or anyone over 18 who is not a party to the legal action.
Utah courts will not proceed with the divorce without proof of service, which may take the form of a receipt or an affidavit signed by the process server.
Once your spouse has been properly served, they will have 21 days to respond to the petition if they reside in the state of Utah, or 30 days if they reside in another state. If they fail to file an Answer with the court within this time period, they may lose the right to be heard by the court.
If your spouse, as the respondent in the legal action, does not answer the complaint within the allotted time period, the judge will likely assume that they do not wish to participate. At that point, the court will grant most or all of the terms in the Complaint for Divorce without waiting to hear from the respondent.
If your spouse does not dispute any of the allegations found in the Complaint for Divorce and a divorce settlement has already been formalized and signed by both parties, there may be no need to serve process (as your spouse is already a party to the action). If you and your spouse have come to an understanding but have yet to sign a formal agreement, then your spouse should produce an Answer in which they agree to the terms of the Complaint. This removes the need for a trial and allows parties to proceed to the issuance of the final decree for divorce.
If your spouse files an Answer that refutes details in the complaint or makes a counterclaim, then the judge will order you and your spouse to trial. Before the trial, you and your spouse’s attorney may use the discovery procedure for evidence requests, witness interviews, and negotiations with the other party. This may be a lengthy, involved process that takes a hefty toll on you personally and financially.
CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
Contested UT Divorce (High Cost)
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on the issues in the divorce like those involving property allocation, alimony or child support, you will probably have to endure a long and costly legal process that will involve a trial. Because your spouse will probably hire an attorney to represent and protect their interests, it is strongly advised that you do likewise.
- Attorneys are experts in the law and have knowledge that will make the entire divorce proceed more smoothly. Their prior knowledge of court procedures will also lower the risk of making a misstep that could jeopardize the outcome of the case.
- Although an attorney may make certain legal deadlines are met, there is no guarantee that their involvement will shorten the amount of time to complete the divorce. They could engage in a protracted process of discovery to investigate claims made by you and your spouse or enter into negotiations with your spouse’s legal team that could drag on for weeks or months.
- If you have a lot of property to divide, or complicated issues to resolve, an attorney may provide the best ways to proceed.
- Because most divorce lawyers charge hourly in a contested divorce you may expect to pay quite a lot if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement.
Uncontested UT Divorce (Low Cost)
In Utah, if you and your spouse agree on certain issues, you may proceed through the uncontested divorce process.
- You and your spouse must agree on property division and the division of debt to use this expedited process.
- Neither you nor your spouse may petition for child support, child custody or spousal support to qualify for this expedited process.
- There is no need for a trial, but the judge may order you to appear at a hearing if there are child custody issues.
- There may be no need for legal representation, and, in many cases, you can complete the entire process on your own, saving yourself time and money.
- You may be able to complete an uncontested divorce in as little as 90 days.
WHICH OPTION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)
The simplest and most cost-effective way to get a divorce in Utah is for you and your spouse to be in full agreement about major issues like property distribution and you represent yourself. That is why it is in your best interests to come to an agreement with your spouse before you start the divorce procedure. You will save a lot of money and trouble by completing the paperwork yourself. MyDivorcePapers.com can offer valuable guidance and many of the forms necessary to complete this process with limited cost and effort.
Mediation (Medium Cost)
Utah courts will often order couples seeking a divorce to use mediation services even if neither party requests it. Mediators are conflict resolution experts who help couples come to an agreement on unresolved issues. Mediation is not legally binding, but it may make the divorce process easier, shorter or even unnecessary.
Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)
If you and your spouse cannot agree on major issues, the judge will order a bench or jury trial that will require you and your spouse to present evidence or testimony supporting your respective positions. In most trials, it is the attorneys with prior trial experience that do most of the arguing and present evidence. In addition to the legal fees paid to the attorneys, there are usually many court costs involved in a trial.
RESOLVING THE MAJOR ISSUES
Most divorcing couples that cannot reach an agreement are usually in conflict over the issues of property division, alimony or child custody. If you plan on filing for divorce in Utah, you should be aware of how courts usually decide these issues.
One of the most divisive issues of any divorce involves how property is distributed to the parties involved. Utah courts use the principle of equitable distribution, i.e. assets should be allocated fairly, to divide marital property. This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split and fairness is governed by many factors including:
- duration of the marriage
- the age and health of each spouse
- occupations and future income
- the standard of living during the marriage
- tax consequences of the distribution
- custody of the children
These factors may be ignored regarding property that was owned prior to the marriage or assets under the purview of a prenuptial agreement.
Utah confers upon a parent two types of custody: physical or legal. Physical custody governs the residence of the child, while legal custody grants the right make important decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing. Utah determines these custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. Utah courts prefer to award the parent with physical custody also with primary legal custody, but encourages contact with both parents. The court will take into consideration the following criteria before making a determination:
- the parents’ behavior and morality
- which parent will more likely act in the child’s best interest;
- which parent will more likely allow the child interactions with the other parent;
- the type of relationship between a parent and child.
Alimony or spousal maintenance may be ordered if the dependent spouse is unable to maintain the current standard of living. In most cases, alimony is only temporary and will be terminated after a determined period of time. The court will consider the following when awarding alimony:
- Both spouse’s age and health
- Length of marriage
- the standard of living at the time of separation
- the dependent earner’s contribution to the increased earning power of the other spouse
- past services as a parent or homemaker
- both spouse’s future income and assets
- needs of any minor children
- any fault by a spouse including adultery, domestic violence or financial malfeasance
FINALIZING YOUR UT DIVORCE
If you and your spouse engage in an uncontested divorce, then you will probably not need to attend a court hearing before the judge issues the final divorce decree. If you are engaged in an uncontested divorce and have minor children, you must complete a Divorce Education class before the judge will issue the final decree.
If you and your spouse disagree on key issues, the judge may schedule a trial before a jury or a judge. After the judgment is issued, you should receive your final decree of divorce.