How to get divorced in Utah
This guide is for people in Utah who are thinking about getting divorced or have already started the process.
We cover everything from the basics, like the grounds for divorce in Utah, to the complicated, like how child custody works.
If you don’t find the answers you need here, feel free to email us through our contact form.
Who is eligible for a divorce in Utah?
To be eligible for a divorce in Utah, one member of the couple needs to be “an actual and bona fide resident” of the state, or be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who has been stationed in Utah for at least three months (UT §30.3.1).
If one spouse lives in Utah, but the other spouse has never lived in Utah, the state of Utah can still grant the divorce, determine child custody, and divide up any property located within the state. However, Utah typically can’t require the nonresident spouse to pay child support, alimony, or any attorney’s fees, or rule on property division of any property that isn’t located in Utah (Utah Legal Clinic: What if the other spouse does not live in Utah, can I still get a divorce here?).
What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?
Utah lists a number of grounds for divorce (UT §30.3.1):
If one spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage.
Desertion, meaning one spouse has not contacted the other for more than a year.
If one spouse has not provided the other with “the common necessaries of life.”
Alcoholism, which Utah law defines as “habitual drunkenness.”
A spouse being convicted of a felony.
Domestic violence or abuse.
“Incurable insanity,” which Utah requires to be designated by professionals, including at least two physicians.
A separation in which the spouses have lived apart for three consecutive years.
Irreconcilable differences in the marriage – so essentially, any reason at all.
Can Utah legally require me to seek marriage counseling prior to my divorce?
It is up to the court’s discretion if counseling will be required ((Utah Legal Clinic: Is there any requirement that I attend counseling before I file for a divorce?). If the court does mandate counseling, the process will likely first address whether the marriage can be saved. If, after engaging with such counseling, the spouses want to continue with their divorce, counseling may be required throughout the process to provide emotional support.
What is the divorce process like in Utah?
File papers with the court
You will need to file an official petition for divorce and formally notify your spouse by “serving” them (Utah Courts: Divorce – The divorce process). Petitions should be filed with your district court. Utah Courts: Utah State Court Directory Contact Information provides a full list of telephone numbers and addresses for all Utah courts, with a drop-down menu to search district courts specifically. Utah’s Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) is designed to help people prepare court documents if they do not have a lawyer and can help you complete your divorce petition.
The court case will proceed in the county where the petition is first filed, so if you and your spouse live in different counties, you may want to be the one to file the petition for convenience reasons (Utah Legal Services: Divorce).
Pay associated court fees
It costs $325 to file a divorce petition in Utah (Utah District Court Cover Sheet for All Civil Actions Except Probate Cases). You may also have to pay additional fees, such as:
The fee to use the OCAP system.
Fees to record your divorce officially and legally with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics, including the costs of copying documents.
Any fees associated with serving your spouse the divorce petition, such as sheriff’s fees.
Fees for the Divorce Education and Divorce Orientation classes, if you and your spouse have children (more information on divorce classes in the “Am I required to take a divorce class?” section below).
Fees for expert witnesses, such as property appraisers or custody evaluators, if various aspects of the divorce are contested between you and your spouse (Utah Legal Clinic).
You may qualify for a fee waiver for some of the above-listed fees if you can prove to the court that you are unable to pay. Fee waiver applications require you to file a “detailed description of income, property, and debts” with the court (Utah Courts: Fees and Fee Waiver).
Notify your spouse of the divorce petition
You need to formally notify your spouse that you have filed for divorce within 120 days of submitting the petition to the court. If you and your spouse have already agreed to all aspects of your planned divorce, you can skip the formal notification process and instead file a Stipulation form with the court (more information on Stipulations in “Negotiate major issues with your spouse” section below).
Notification to your spouse must include a copy of the petition and a formal summons document. The summons document needs to contain the name and address (including county) of the court, and your name, address, and telephone number, along with your attorney’s (if you have one). It also needs to explain when your spouse is required to answer the petition, and what happens if they don’t respond (more information in “What’s the timeline?” section below). If you and your spouse have children, you must also include a Notice of Education Requirements, which contains information on Utah’s mandatory Divorce Education course for divorcing parents (more information in the “Am I required to take a divorce class?” section below).
Once you have notified your spouse, you officially become the “petitioner” (the person who filed the petition) and your spouse becomes the “respondent.”
How can I notify my spouse?
You can use personal service or alternative service to formally notify your spouse of the divorce petition (Utah Courts: Serving Papers/Service of Process).
If you know where your spouse lives, or how to find them, personal service will be the easiest option for you – simply deliver a copy of the divorce petition and formal summons document to your spouse in person. You can also mail them the documents, as long as they are willing to sign a document indicating that they have received them, or you can give the documents to your spouse’s attorney if they have one.
There are some limits on personal service in Utah. If your spouse is legally incapacitated, you need to deliver the documents to both them and their guardian, conservator, legal representative, or caretaker. If your spouse is incarcerated, you need to deliver the documents to “the person who has the care, custody, or control of the individual.”
If you can prove that you can’t find your spouse, that it is impractical for you to serve them, or that they are avoiding personal service, you can file a motion to ask the court to allow you to pursue another form of service. Your motion needs to include an affidavit describing your efforts to find your spouse and/or other extenuating circumstances that may apply (Utah Courts: Motion for Alternative Service). The form to file such a motion can be found at Ex Parte Motion for Alternative Service.
Utah has a website with resources for finding people in order to serve them: Utah Courts: Finding People for Service of Process. The court will be more likely to approve your motion for alternative service if you can demonstrate that you have already attempted to find your spouse using these resources.
If the court approves your motion to pursue alternative service, they will recommend an alternative service method for you to use. Service by publication (often also referred to as constructive service) will involve the court publishing the formal court summons in a generally circulated newspaper in your spouse’s county once a week for a number of weeks. Alternative service can also be conducted via text, email, social media (or a combination of any of the above), or through the Utah Press Association’s Legal Notices webpage, utahlegals.com.
Once you have served your spouse (by any method), you need to file a Proof of Service and Certificate of Service document with the court – although, if you used alternative service to serve your spouse, you need to file the Proof of Alternative Service instead.
If you used alternative service because your spouse couldn’t be located, and your spouse still cannot be located throughout the divorce proceedings, the divorce judge will likely rule on child custody and division of property located in Utah, but will not issue rulings on child support, alimony, or division of property located outside of the state (Utah Legal Clinic: Can I get a divorce even if I don't know where my spouse is?).
What’s the timeline?
Your spouse has 21 days to respond to the divorce petition if the summons is delivered within the state and 30 days to respond if the summons is delivered to an out-of-state location (Utah Courts: Roadmap for divorce cases).
If your spouse does not respond within the applicable timeframe, you can file a Motion for Default Judgment, which will cause your divorce case to proceed without your spouse’s input. In addition to the motion form, you also need to file a Default Certificate, which the judge will sign to make the default judgment decision final. When the decision is finalized, you will then have to serve a copy of both the signed judgment and a Notice of Judgment form to your spouse, following the same service processes outlined in the “How can I notify my spouse?” section above.
If your spouse is in the military (which includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, Coast Guard, National Guard, reserves of any of the above, or commissioned officer roles within the Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), they have special protections against default judgments (Utah Courts: Default Judgments). If you’re not sure if your spouse qualifies for military default judgment protection, you can confirm their military status at the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) website.
If your spouse is in the military, you need to file the Military Service Declaration along with the default motion and certificate forms. The most common outcome in default cases involving military service members is a “stay” on the case for 90 days. Basically, your spouse will be granted an additional three months to respond to your petition before the default judgment process can proceed (Utah Courts: Lawsuits Involving Military Service Members). If your spouse is on active military duty, the stay could be extended for “as long as military duty materially affects the service member’s ability to appear in court.” To extend a stay, your spouse must provide a date when they will be able to appear in court, along with a letter from their commanding officer corroborating that they cannot be excused from their military duties until that point.
If you are the respondent spouse, you must formally answer the divorce petition your spouse serves you within the applicable timeframe if you want to avoid a default judgment. There is no fee associated with filing an official answer to a petition, and the form can be found at Utah Courts: Answer for Divorce, Custody, Paternity, Annulment, Temporary Separation, or Separate Maintenance.
If you need more time beyond the 21- or 30-day window to file your answer, and you are not a member of the military, you can ask your spouse to grant you more time. If they do not agree to extend the response window, you can file a motion in court requesting additional time to respond to the petition. More information on filing motions can be found at Utah Courts: Motions.
If you miss the response window and your spouse files a motion for default judgment that is granted by a judge, you can file a motion to undo the judgment (Utah Courts: Motion to Set Aside Default or Judgment). The motion must be filed within three months of the judgment’s issue date. The Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) and the Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) list the following reasons as acceptable excuses for setting aside a default judgment:
“Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.”
Newly discovered evidence.
“Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of the other party.” Common examples of this situation include proving that your spouse did not properly notify you of the divorce petition, or if the paperwork “contained mistakes or was filed incorrectly.”
In addition to filing the formal answer to your spouse’s divorce petition, you have two options for how you can respond (Utah Courts: Answering a Complaint or Petition). If you do not wish to contest any of the statements in the petition, you can file a Stipulation. Stipulations are common in divorce cases involving spouses who have not been married for long and/or don’t have children, although they can be filed in any divorce case. Typically, in divorce cases involving a Stipulation, the spouses have already communicated and agreed upon the terms of the divorce before filing the divorce petition.
If you do wish to contest your spouse’s divorce petition (which will likely result in court hearings), you should file a counterclaim in addition to filing your formal answer. Counterclaims for divorce cases are found at Utah Courts: Counterclaim for Divorce, Custody, Paternity, Annulment, Temporary Separation, or Separate Maintenance. When filing a counterclaim, you need to follow all the same legal procedures to notify your spouse of the counterclaim as your spouse was required to do in filing the original petition – serving your spouse with an official notice of your counterclaim, etc. Counterclaims in divorce cases require a $130 fee. If you need financial assistance with the fee, refer to the “Pay associated court fees” section above.
What is a Domestic Relations Injunction?
Once the divorce petition is officially filed and served, the judge in your case will automatically enter a Domestic Relations Injunction (Utah Courts: Domestic Relations Injunction). The injunction will lay down rules both spouses must follow while the divorce case proceeds, which include:
Not harassing, intimidating, or disturbing the peace of the other spouse.
Not committing domestic violence or abuse against the other spouse or a child (for a definition of domestic violence, see Child Custody in Utah page).
Not using the other spouse’s identity to open a new account or line of credit.
Not canceling or interfering with services used by the other spouse, such as utilities for the marital home.
Not interfering with health insurance, home/rental insurance, car insurance, or life insurance, including allowing any of the above policies to lapse by no longer paying premiums.
Not transferring or disposing of any shared property without the other spouse’s written consent, unless such an action is within “the usual course of business” or needed to provide for basic necessities.
If you and your spouse share children, the Domestic Relations Injunction will also contain specific rules pertaining to parenting behavior, including:
Not taking children on “non-routine” travel without the written consent of the other parent, or without providing the other parent with a travel itinerary and contact information.
Not talking badly about the other parent in the children’s presence.
Not attempting to influence the children’s custody preferences.
Not saying or doing “anything that would negatively affect the love and affection of the children” for the other parent.
Not involving the children in the divorce process at all.
Not using the children to make caregiving arrangements, i.e. refusing to speak to the other parent and only communicating through the children.
For the spouse filing the petition (the petitioner), the Domestic Relations Injunction goes into effect the moment the petition is filed. For the spouse receiving the petition (the respondent), the injunction goes into effect once the petition is received. The injunction will remain in place until the divorce is finalized, the divorce petition is withdrawn or dismissed, the two spouses agree to divorce terms in writing, or a court order removes the injunction.
What are mandatory disclosures?
Mandatory disclosures are documents you need to file with the court and provide to your spouse (and their lawyer, if applicable). They include a Financial Declaration and initial court disclosures.
Full Financial Declarations are required in almost all divorce cases. The only instance in which you may not have to file a Financial Declaration is if your spouse never responded to your divorce petition. In that case, the court likely won’t ask for a formal Financial Declaration but may require you to provide proof of income for both you and your spouse.
In all other divorce proceedings, you need to submit a large quantity of information on your financial situation. If you are the petitioner, you need to send your spouse a Notice of Disclosure Requirements in Domestic Relations Cases so that they know what they need to submit. You will both need to complete the Financial Declaration form and deliver it to the other spouse, along with the Certificate of Service of Financial Declaration form to document that the Financial Declaration was properly delivered. The following documents need to be included as part of the Financial Declaration:
Tax returns for the two years before the petition was filed, both for personal income and any businesses.
All documents used to prepare the above tax returns.
Pay stubs and/or other proof of income for the year before the petition was filed.
Loan applications and statements for the year before the petition was filed.
Real estate documents verifying the value of all real estate in which each spouse has an interest. These documents include the most recent property appraisal and tax valuation, as well as any refinance documents, if applicable.
All financial statements for checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, brokerage, investment, and retirement accounts for the three months before the petition was filed, including any account that has been closed, any accounts held jointly with other people/entities, and any accounts held as a trustee or guardian.
Proof of employment or unemployment.
Proof of gross monthly income, including:
Salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, tips, and overtime.
Income from rentals, businesses, interest, dividends, retirement, Social Security, Supplemental Security, alimony, child support, trusts, or annuities.
Disability insurance or income.
Grants, loans, or scholarships for education.
Payments from civil litigation or victim restitution.
Any public assistance.
Financial support from anyone.
Proof of monthly tax deductions, including federal, state, and municipal taxes.
Proof of monthly expenses, including:
Mortgage, rent, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and costs to maintain the home.
Food and other household supplies.
Clothing, laundry, and dry cleaning.
Car payments, car insurance, car maintenance, gas, and any other transportation-related costs, such as bus tickets or parking fees.
Utilities, including gas, water, sewer, electricity, and garbage.
Telephone, television, cable, satellite, and internet bills.
Credit card and loan payments.
Alimony and child support.
Childcare, including extracurricular activities and education.
Education costs (for self, not children).
Health insurance and expenses.
Any other insurance costs.
Gifts and donations.
Dues, including union dues.
Income garnishment or withholding.
Deposits into retirement accounts.
Proof of personal property, such as “vehicles, boats, trailers, major equipment, furniture, jewelry, and collectibles.”
Proof of any debts.
The Financial Declaration forms need to be shared between spouses within 14 days of the respondent answering the divorce petition. If any information in your Financial Declaration changes, you need to notify your spouse. If you don’t file a Financial Declaration, or you don’t fully disclose all your assets and income in your declaration, the court may punish you by allocating those assets and income to your spouse or requiring you to pay your spouse’s attorney fees.
In addition to the Financial Declaration, you also must file an initial disclosure with the court that essentially outlines your game plan for the divorce. Utah law requires both spouses to disclose to the other any information relevant to the divorce case, including witnesses and supporting documents. If you don’t disclose relevant information, you will likely not be able to use that information in the trial. If you learn new information, or that your previous disclosure was somehow incomplete or incorrect, you need to provide that new information to your spouse. Required forms for initial disclosures include the Initial Disclosures form and the Certificate of Service of Initial Disclosures to prove that you provided the Initial Disclosures form to your spouse.
Am I required to take a divorce class?
Utah law requires completion of a mandatory orientation course and a mandatory education course for all spouses entering into a divorce if they share minor children (UT §18.104.22.168 and UT §22.214.171.124).
The purpose of the Divorce Orientation course is to educate people about the divorce process and “reasonable alternatives.” Spouses without children can opt to complete the Divorce Orientation course, but it is not required. For spouses with children, the petitioner needs to attend the course within 60 days of filing the divorce petition, and the respondent needs to attend the course within 30 days of receiving the petition. No motions can be filed in the divorce case until the orientation course is completed (except for temporary restraining orders – more information in “Temporary restraining orders” section below).
The Divorce Orientation course is an hour long and can be provided in person or online. It presents information on divorce alternatives, resources for resolving differences and improving your marriage, discussion on the consequences of divorce, an overview of the divorce process, and helpful resources for after the divorce is finalized. The course costs $30 online and $15 in person. You can apply for a fee waiver if necessary – refer to the “Pay associated court fees” section above for more information.
The Divorce Education course is designed to “educate and sensitize divorcing parents to their children’s needs both during and after the divorce process.” Unlike the Divorce Orientation course, the Divorce Education course completion requirement can be waived, either because the judge deems it unnecessary or because the judge approves a waiver request from one of the spouses (you can request the course requirement to be waived using the Motion to Waive Education Requirements). No motions (except temporary restraining orders) may be filed in the divorce case until the Divorce Education course is completed, if the requirement is not waived.
The Divorce Education course is available in person, online, or via DVD (if the parent is incarcerated or otherwise unable to access the course in its other formats). It costs $35 and parents can apply for a fee waiver. The course provides information on:
Grieving stages related to divorce.
How children experience divorce based on their age.
How to help children adjust to divorce.
How to communicate with children about divorce.
“Parental behavior that promotes good self-esteem in children,” including encouraging children to express their feelings.
How conflict between parents creates stress for children, and how to decrease the conflict children are exposed to.
The importance of children continuing to have meaningful relationships with both parents during and after a divorce.
Ways to cooperate with the other parent and share parenting responsibilities.
Financial and legal components of divorce.
The impacts of divorce on family relationships and the financial responsibilities parents have toward their children.
The harm domestic violence can cause to children and family relationships.
Negotiate major issues with your spouse
Once you have filed all the divorce paperwork, if you and your spouse have not already come to some sort of agreement on how to proceed with your divorce, you will have to negotiate. Some of the major divorce issues you will have to navigate include:
Marital property and debts.
Spousal support/maintenance (AKA alimony).
Any other issues that matter to you, such as who keeps the pets.
If you can come to an agreement on those issues, great! As mentioned above, spouses who agree on all components of their divorce case can file a Stipulation and, after 30 days from the petition filing date, file their final divorce documents and ask the judge to sign their Divorce Decree.
If you don’t agree, that makes the situation more complicated. There are several options for handling divorce proceedings when there’s disagreement between divorcing spouses.
Utah law requires any divorce case where the spouses do not file a Stipulation to engage in at least one session of mediation (UT §30.3.39 and Utah Courts: Divorce Mediation Program). The Utah court system’s reasoning behind this requirement is that “the informality and flexibility of the mediation process allows issues to be discussed that might otherwise be raised in a more adversarial or narrowly-focused process.” If couples can come to an agreement on significant divorce-related issues through mediation, they will typically spend much less time and money than they would if they litigated those same issues in court.
Spouses are responsible for finding and paying a professional mediator. The cost of mediation will be divided equally between the spouses unless they agree to an alternate arrangement or the court orders otherwise. If the spouses can’t afford the cost of mediation, they can submit the Divorce Mediation Program Income Survey form to be considered for financial assistance or pro bono (free) mediation services. Both spouses will need to disclose all sources of household income on this form, including:
Government benefits, such as the Family Employment Program, food stamps, WIC, General Assistance, or Refugee Cash Assistance.
Alimony and child support.
Disability and Social Security benefits.
Professional mediators need to be qualified on the Utah Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Office’s Court Roster. A list of qualified mediators can be found using the Utah Courts Divorce Mediation Roster.
Spouses can apply to have the mediation requirement waived by submitting the Application to Excuse Mandatory Divorce Mediation to the Administrative Office of the Courts Divorce Mediation Program. If the office rejects your excuse request, you can file a motion asking the court to waive the requirement. Judges typically only waive a mediation requirement because a spouse does not feel safe participating in a mediation process with the other spouse (usually because of a history of domestic violence), or a spouse believes they will not be able to fully express themselves in a mediation process.
There are three potential outcomes from mediation. In the first outcome, no agreement, spouses do not resolve any of their disputed issues. The mediator will prepare a Mediation Disposition Notice indicating that divorce issues were not settled and will send this notice to the courthouse, both spouses, both spouses’ attorneys (if applicable), and the divorce mediation program coordinator. Spouses are then responsible for reaching out to the courthouse to file their divorce hearings to litigate divorce issues in court.
In the second outcome, partial agreement, spouses resolve some but not all of their disputed issues. The mediator will prepare a Mediation Disposition Notice and send it to the same people/groups listed above. They will also prepare a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) listing the issues that were resolved during mediation, how those issues were resolved, and any remaining issues. Both spouses need to approve the draft MOU. The spouses will then need to submit a final Stipulation (based on the approved MOU draft) to the court. The Stipulation can also be submitted by either of the spouses’ attorneys or the mediator themselves, if the mediator is also an attorney and the spouses sign a waiver allowing the mediator to write and submit their Stipulations. Spouses then must reach out to the courthouse to file divorce hearings to address their remaining unresolved issues. If they can come to an agreement on those remaining issues before the divorce case is finalized, they can file another Stipulation.
In the third outcome, full agreement, spouses resolve all their disputed issues. The mediator will prepare a Mediation Disposition Notice and a draft MOU that requires both spouses’ approval. The spouses, their attorneys, or the mediator can then file a Stipulation. Even if all issues are resolved, spouses still need to communicate with the courthouse to file their final divorce hearing, which will essentially be a formality.
You can learn more about mediation in our posts 10 Reasons to Consider Mediation When Getting Divorced and Creating a Parenting Plan Through Mediation.
If mediation fails, spouses can attempt to negotiate in the collaborative divorce process. Collaborative divorce involves you and your spouse coming to an agreement not with the help of a mediator, but with the help of both of your lawyers (UT §78B.19.101, Utah Association of Collaborative Professionals). In a collaborative divorce process, both spouses and their lawyers sign a legally binding document stating that, if the spouses are unable to come to an agreement, neither lawyer will represent either spouse in court – which essentially takes away the lawyers’ motivation to proceed to a court trial as they will not be hired, so it incentivizes them to help broker an agreement between the spouses. If the process does not result in an agreement, the collaborative divorce lawyers will step back, and each spouse is free to proceed to trial with a different attorney to try their case in court.
Other professionals, such as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, therapists, and custody evaluators (if the spouses share children) can also be brought into the collaborative divorce process.
Collaborative divorce lawyers are barred from recommending the collaborative law process if they have reason to believe the spouses have a history of coercion or domestic violence, unless they “reasonably believe that the safety of the party or prospective party can be protected adequately,” or the process is requested by the spouses themselves (UT §78B.19.101).
Read more about collaborative divorce in our article What is Collaborative Divorce and Why Should I Use It?
If spouses are unable to come to a full agreement through mediation or the collaborative divorce process, divorce lawyers can argue spouses’ cases in front of a judge. Technically, all divorce cases, even those where all issues have been resolved through mediation or collaborative divorce, need to proceed to trial in order to be finalized. But for cases where spouses have filed Stipulations addressing all disputed issues, the trial is basically a formality, though they do still need to follow the basic steps outlined below.
To proceed to trial, one of the spouses needs to file a Certification of Readiness for Trial (Utah Courts: Getting Ready for Trial – Civil Cases). This certification confirms with the court that all required documents have been filed, discovery has been completed, all motions have been decided, the spouses have met the mediation requirements or been properly excused, and mandatory Divorce Orientation and Divorce Education classes have been completed.
The court may, at its discretion or because of a filed motion, require spouses’ attorneys and potentially the spouses themselves to attend a pretrial conference (Utah Courts: URCP Rule 16 – Rules of Civil Procedure). Pretrial conferences may include conversations about ways to settle aspects of the case without proceeding to a formal trial, clarifying aspects of the trial process, setting trial dates, and laying out boundaries and rules for how the trial will proceed. If you live in Utah Judicial Districts 1, 2, 3, or 4, pretrial conferences are required in divorce cases (you can find a map of the judicial districts and a list of counties within each district at Utah Courts: Map of Courts & Judicial Districts to determine which judicial district you live in). After the Certificate of Readiness has been filed and any pretrial conferences have finished, spouses should contact their judge’s judicial assistant to schedule the trial.
Spouses are required to exchange evidence (which is different from the Initial Disclosures described above in the “What are mandatory disclosures?” section) at least 28 days before a trial begins. This evidence includes contact information for all witnesses who will testify during the trial, as well as copies of each evidence exhibit, including charts and summaries. If spouses wish to object to any evidence provided by the other spouse, they have until 14 days before the trial begins to do so. Given the length of time that required mediation and pretrial conferences take, the court will also likely require each spouse to file an update to their Financial Disclosure before proceeding to trial.
The Utah court system recommends spouses who have not retained counsel take the following actions to prepare for their trial:
Prepare an opening statement.
Prepare questions for the witnesses you plan to call and cross-examination questions for the witnesses your spouse plans to call.
Organize all the evidence you will present.
Review Utah divorce law.
Prepare your argument for why the judge should rule in your favor.
Observe another divorce trial to better understand what to expect.
When the trial begins, the petitioner or their attorney will present their case to the judge first, followed by the respondent or their attorney. After both sides present their case, both sides will have the opportunity to make a final closing argument.
Finalizing the divorce
The final hearing to dissolve a marriage and finalize the Divorce Decree can’t take place until 30 days have passed since the divorce petition was filed (Utah §30.3.18). Utah law includes this waiting period in the hope that spouses can reconcile (Utah Legal Clinic: Summary of Utah divorce law). Spouses can file a Motion to Waive 30-day Divorce Waiting Period if they would like a final hearing to be scheduled sooner, but they need to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances for the motion to be granted (Utah Courts: Motion to Waive Divorce Waiting Period). If one spouse does not agree with the motion to waive the waiting period, they can file a Memorandum Opposing the Motion.
Most divorce cases take months, if not years, to conclude. It is typically in both spouses’ best interests to take as much time as is needed to fully pursue their case, so there are very few circumstances in which it would be advantageous for the final hearing to occur sooner than a month after the petition is filed.
If you are unhappy with the judge’s final decision (on alimony, child custody, etc.), you can appeal (Utah Courts: Appeals). You should understand beforehand, however, that your appeal is unlikely to overturn the judge’s decision unless you can prove the judge made a legal error. The only evidence that can be admitted in an appellate case is evidence from the original trial itself. Appeals need to be filed within 30 days of the final issuance of the divorce decree (Utah Legal Services: Divorce).
Spousal support is also often referred to as spousal maintenance or alimony. In Utah law, spousal support is referred to as alimony (UT §30.3.5).
Who is required to pay alimony?
In Utah, either spouse may be required to pay alimony to the other. Generally, in alimony judgments, Utah courts prioritize maintaining each spouse’s standard of living that existed at the time of the separation. However, it is up to the court’s discretion which time period they consider. Some courts may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the divorce trial. For shorter marriages with no children (or conception of children), the court may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the marriage. The court may also order alimony payments to “equalize” the standard of living between spouses.
The court can consider the fault of either spouse when determining who receives alimony. In Utah law, fault is defined as “wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage.” It can include adultery, threats, intentional and attempted physical harm to the other spouse or a child, and “substantially undermining the financial stability” of the other spouse or a child.
How much alimony will be needed?
The court considers the following factors when determining how much alimony is required:
The financial condition and needs of the spouse receiving alimony, including that spouse’s earning ability. Earning ability can encompass employment history, ability/inability to work, and income received from all sources, including passive income. The court will also consider whether the spouse’s earning ability is reduced because of past or current childcare responsibilities (for the other spouse’s child), as well as monthly debts and obligations.
The financial condition of the spouse paying alimony, defined as income from all sources weighed against debts. If the paying spouse takes out additional debts for the sole purpose of reducing their required alimony payments, those debts will not be considered.
The duration of the marriage. Utah law defines a marriage as beginning on the day the spouses are legally married and ending on the day the divorce petition is filed.
If the spouse receiving alimony has a child they are financially supporting.
If the spouse receiving alimony previously worked in a business owned or operated by the spouse paying alimony.
If the spouse receiving alimony helped pay for the other spouse’s education, or in some other manner enabled them to pursue education during the marriage.
In the case of a marriage of “long duration,” if the marriage is ending “on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both,” i.e., if one spouse’s business is taking off and the other spouse did the marketing for that business.
If both spouses signed a premarital agreement (commonly referred to as a “prenup”) that addresses spousal support, but the amount of support required by the agreement would cause one spouse to become eligible for a government assistance program, the court can overrule the agreement and require one spouse to provide enough support to the other that they will not become eligible for public assistance. For more information on premarital agreements, see “Premarital agreements” section below.
How long will alimony be required?
In some cases, one spouse may only be required to pay alimony to the other spouse for the length of the divorce proceeding, which is referred to as temporary alimony (Utah Courts: Alimony). If the receiving spouse is found to be cohabitating with another person, any temporary alimony must immediately be terminated. Utah law defines “cohabitation” as living together while in a romantic or sexual relationship.
Utah law bars courts from ordering anyone to pay alimony to a former spouse for a length of time longer than the length of the marriage, unless there is an extenuating circumstance. If one spouse is ordered to pay temporary alimony during divorce proceedings, that time will count towards the overall alimony period.
Can alimony be changed?
Alimony can be changed if the court orders it. Such orders are typically based on a “substantial material change in circumstances,” such as a spouse’s retirement. Utah law specifically states that alimony cannot be changed to address any needs of the receiving spouse that did not exist at the time of the divorce unless there is some kind of extenuating circumstance.
If the paying spouse remarries, the court will not consider the new spouse’s income when determining alimony, unless the new spouse’s income allows them to contribute to the paying spouse’s living expenses, or if there is “improper conduct” on the part of the paying spouse. An example of “improper conduct” would be the paying spouse committing adultery during the marriage, and then remarrying the person they committed adultery with.
If the receiving spouse remarries, all alimony orders are terminated, unless the new marriage is annulled, or the divorce decree contains specific language preventing such termination. If the paying spouse can prove the receiving spouse is cohabitating with a new partner, they can file a motion with the court to terminate alimony. A motion to terminate alimony requires a modification of the divorce decree and must follow a strict process, along with all other petitions requesting to change aspects of the divorce agreement after the divorce trial has concluded (Utah Courts: Modification of a Divorce Decree).
What are the legal consequences of refusing to pay alimony?
If the paying spouse is not fulfilling their alimony obligations, the receiving spouse can file a motion asking the court to enforce the alimony order (Utah Courts: Motion to Enforce Order). The receiving spouse will need to file the motion, documents to support their request (in this instance, proof that required alimony has not been paid), and a request for the judge to file a decision. Once all paperwork has been filed, the receiving spouse needs to notify the paying spouse of the hearing, following the same procedures outlined in the “How can I notify my spouse?” section above. The paying spouse must be served at least 28 days before the hearing.
If the paying spouse wants to contest the receiving spouse’s argument that they are not paying alimony, they can file a Memorandum Opposing the Motion (to which the receiving spouse can then respond with a Reply Memorandum Supporting the Motion). If the court finds that the paying spouse did in fact fail to pay required alimony, they may require the spouse to pay the past due alimony in a lump sum, fine them, or sentence them to jail time.
What are the tax implications of alimony?
Alimony payments are usually considered a tax-deductible expense for the person making the payment, and taxable income for the person receiving the payment.
No matter what state you live in, child custody in divorce cases is always a detailed topic. It’s so detailed that we wrote a specific guide dedicated solely to child custody in Utah.
Here are a few questions the guide covers in-depth:
What does child custody consist of in Utah?
How does Utah make custody decisions?
What does “best interest of the child” mean?
What goes into a parenting plan?
A few key points to keep in mind:
Custody in Utah is broken out into legal custody, which is decision-making responsibility regarding aspects of a child’s life, and physical custody, which refers to the logistics of child-rearing.
While Utah courts prefer for both parents to share custody, ultimately custody decisions are based on what is determined to be in the best interests of the child.
It is easier for everyone, including the court, if parents can come to an agreement on child custody and a parenting plan, and the courts provide several resources to assist parents and avoid potential judicial involvement, including an informal trial process.
Demonstrating a willingness to collaborate with the other parent on a parenting plan will help show the court that you are prioritizing the best interests of your child.
Utah law requires that both parents contribute to financially supporting their children, regardless of marital status (UT §78B.12.105). Financial support includes (but is not limited to) medical care and childcare expenses.
For childcare expenses, each parent will be required to pay half of all childcare expenses necessary for each parent to participate in 40 weekly hours of work or occupational training.
For medical care, parents are expected to pay for health insurance and all medical expenses (Utah §78B.12.212). If health insurance is “reasonable in cost,” it must be provided as part of child support by at least one of the parents. When deciding which parent will be required to maintain health insurance coverage for the child, the court will consider the availability of group insurance coverage (which is typically cheaper than individual insurance), what the policy covers, the parents’ ages, and the parents’ preferences. Parental preferences will be taken into account only if both parents have shared custody – if just one parent has custody, that parent’s preference will take precedence.
Even if one parent is ordered to include their child on their health insurance plan, the court will order the actual out-of-pocket cost of the child’s health insurance premium to be equally split between both parents. Parents will also be required to equally share all other health expenses for the child, including deductibles and copayments. Any parent who pays the full cost upfront for an unanticipated health expense for their child needs to provide the other parent with written verification of the cost and payment within 30 days.
If both parents have health/hospital/dental insurance coverage that also covers the child, the court will decide which plan provides primary coverage. If one parent remarries, and the child’s new stepparent has a health insurance plan that could cover the child, the child can be covered under that plan. Whichever parent covers the child on their (or their spouse’s) health insurance plan will be required to annually verify that the child is still eligible to receive coverage under the plan.
Child support, along with child custody and parent-time, can be decided in an informal trial, as opposed to a formal official trial. For more information on the process of requesting and pursuing an informal trial, refer to the Child Custody in Utah page.
How much will each parent pay?
Beyond childcare and medical care, each parent’s child support obligation is calculated using their gross monthly income and the number of nights the child spends in their household. Gross monthly income is determined to include (UT §78B.12.203):
Salary and wages. The amount of this component of income that can be considered for support is limited to the equivalent of one full-time job, defined as 40 hours a week. If, prior to divorce, one parent consistently worked more than 40 hours a week, then the court can consider the extra work pattern when calculating child support.
Income from self-employment or an owned business, calculated to account for any expenses for self-employment or business operation.
Commissions and bonuses.
Income from royalties, rentals, and trusts.
Gifts and prizes.
Interest and dividends.
Severance pay and unemployment compensation.
Pensions and annuity benefits.
Alimony from previous marriages.
Social Security benefits.
Worker’s compensation benefits.
Income replacement disability insurance benefits.
Payment from non-means-tested government programs.
Gross monthly income cannot include any cash assistance granted under Utah’s Family Employment Program (UT §35A.3.P3). It also can’t include any benefits received from Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, General Assistance, the Job Training Partnership Act, a housing subsidy program, or any other means-tested government programs.
Each parent will be required to provide verification of their income. This verification needs to include pay stubs or employer statements as well as tax returns. If those documents cannot be provided, the Department of Workforce Services can verify income using their records.
For the purposes of calculating child support, the number of nights children spend in each parent’s house fall into one of three categories (more information on these categories on the Child Custody in Utah page):
Joint physical custody, meaning the child spends at least 111 nights/year with each parent.
Sole physical custody, meaning the child spends over 225 nights/year with one parent.
Split custody, meaning there are multiple children and some live with one parent while others live with the other parent.
Divorcing parents can use the OCAP website to calculate child support and prepare Child Support Worksheets. A table of expected child support obligations based on income and number of children can be found at UT §78B.12.301, with a low-income version available at UT §78B.12.302 (Utah defines “low-income” as less than $1,050 in monthly adjusted gross income). It is up to parents to fill out child support worksheets based on the established child support guidelines; the court will merely verify whether the calculations are correct (Utah Legal Clinic: How is a child support amount determined?).
The court may also consider the following factors in determining child support (Utah Legal Clinic: How is a child support amount determined?):
Both parents’ standard of living, earning ability, and ages.
Any financial needs of the parent receiving child support payments.
Any child support or alimony requirements a parent is paying to other children or a previous spouse.
Methods of paying child support
The court will decide when and how child support payments need to be made, although such orders are unlikely in cases where parents agree on the method of paying child support. Child support payments are typically made either directly between parents or through the Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS), though the court may order a parent to make arrangements with their employer to withhold child support from the parent’s earnings.
If a parent is not currently earning income, they may still be required by the court to pay child support if the court imputes their income, meaning they calculate how much the parent would be paying if they were working (UT §78B.12.203). The court will base this calculation on the following factors:
The parent’s employment opportunities, work qualifications, educational background, and work history.
The parent’s age and health.
The parent’s criminal record, if applicable.
The average earnings and job availability for people in the community of similar backgrounds.
Note: the court is not allowed to impute income if the costs of childcare are close to the amount of income a parent can earn, if the parent is pursuing occupational training, or if the parent can’t work due to a physical or mental limitation, or because they have a child with special needs (the child with special needs does not have to be a child shared by the divorcing spouses).
At a minimum, imputed income will likely be the equivalent of a 40-hour work week at the federal minimum wage. If the parent does not agree to the imputed income, or the parent is not in default (i.e., not responding to any court summons and therefore considered to be unreachable), the court must issue a formal order to impute income.
Can child support be changed?
A court may order a change in required child support if a parent’s employment potential or ability changes, such as when a parent graduates from college. Parents can also petition the court to change a child support order (Utah Courts: Modifying Child Support). A request to modify child support can be filed only if the difference between the current child support obligation and the proposed new child support obligation is at least 10% and the circumstances causing the change will last for a year or longer.
There are two different methods to modify child support in court, depending on your situation. You can file a Motion to Adjust Child Support, which is more straightforward and is usually processed quickly. However, you can proceed with filing a motion only if the proposed new child support obligation is consistent with the guidelines set out on Utah’s child support worksheet AND three years have passed since the original child support order was entered by the divorce judge. Here’s an example of a situation where you could file a motion to change a child support order: three years after your child support order was issued, you have a new job that is paying you less money than your former job. When you input your new income into the child support worksheet, your calculated child support income is lower than what you are currently paying.
If you do not qualify to file a Motion to Adjust Child Support, your other option is to file a Petition to Modify Child Support. Petition requirements vary, depending on how long it has been since the original child support order was entered.
If three years have passed since the judge issued the original child support order, you only need to demonstrate that there is at least a 10% difference between your current child support obligation and the proposed new support amount.
If three years have not passed since the original support order, you need to demonstrate that there is at least a 15% difference between your current obligation and the proposed new amount. You also need to prove that there has been a “material change” in at least one of the following circumstances:
One parent’s income (in this case, a “material change” is defined as at least 30%).
One parent’s wealth/assets.
The child’s medical needs and the availability, cost, or “reasonableness” of health care coverage.
One parent’s legal responsibilities to support other people (alimony, child support for a child with another person, etc.).
Work-related or education-related childcare expenses for the other parent.
Legal emancipation of the child.
The child tax exemption award.
If you do file a Petition to Modify Child Support, you need to follow the same rules related to serving the other parent described in the “How can I notify my spouse?” section above. You will also need to provide updated proof of income, which will include your most recent pay stub and at least two years of tax returns. The other parent can oppose the petition by filing a formal answer, an updated Financial Declaration, and updated proof of income.
Child support obligations automatically end when the child in question turns 18, or graduates high school “during the child’s normal and expected year of graduation,” whichever occurs later (Utah Legal Clinic: How long must child support be paid?). If both parents agree, child support may be extended until the child turns 21, or extended until age 21 but only if the child is a full-time student at a college or university. If the child has a permanent disability that renders them unable to support themselves, child support may continue to be mandatory past the ages of 18 or 21.
What are the legal consequences of refusing to pay child support?
It is first important to note that child support and child custody are not legally related. If one parent is not paying required child support, the other parent can’t withhold parent-time. Conversely, if one parent is withholding parent-time, the other parent can’t stop paying child support. The correct process in either instance would be to file a Motion to Enforce Order with the court (refer to the “What are the legal consequences of refusing to pay alimony?” section above for more details on the process of filing such a motion).
If the court finds that one parent did not fulfill their child support obligations, the court can order that parent to pay the amount of overdue child support, interest, a collection fee, and any attorney’s fees/court costs incurred by the parent who filed the Motion to Enforce Order (UT §126.96.36.199).
What are the tax implications of child support?
Child support orders can also establish which parent can claim the child as a dependent on their taxes if the parents have not already agreed on their tax situations. When determining which parent should receive the exemption, the court will consider how much each parent contributes to the cost of raising the child. As a secondary factor, the court may also consider the tax benefit to each parent. No parent can claim nor be awarded a tax exemption if they are not current on their child support payments.
Child support payments are not considered income for the parent receiving the payments, nor are they considered a tax-deductible expense for the parent making the payments (Utah Legal Clinic: After the divorce, which spouse claims the children as dependents for income tax purposes?).
Property Division: who gets what?
If divorcing spouses agree on how to divide their property, Utah will generally accept the agreed-upon property division. But, if there is disagreement, the court will become involved, and in this situation, it will be helpful to understand what is considered marital property and therefore considered eligible to be divided between divorcing spouses.
Utah law defines marital property as all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse holds title to the property or where the property is located. Non-marital property is defined as property owned by either spouse before the marriage or received by one spouse via gift or inheritance during the marriage. As a reminder, under the Domestic Relations Injunction the divorce judge will issue at the beginning of a divorce case, neither spouse may transfer nor dispose of any marital property without the other spouse’s written consent.
UT §30.3.5 calls for all marital property division to be “equitable.” If the spouses have come to an agreement as to how they would like to divide their property, either informally or in a formal Stipulation, the divorce judge will still need to review the agreement to ensure it is equitable. The court will consider the following when determining equitable property division:
The length of the marriage. For long-term marriages, equitable property division is more likely to involve a 50/50 split, although the court can still decide to award one spouse more property than the other. For short-term marriages, the court may attempt to put the spouses “back into the economic position they had before the marriage.”
The age and health of both spouses.
Both spouses’ occupations and sources of income.
If there are children, how property division will impact the children’s well-being, i.e. if the marital home should be granted to the parent with custody of the children so that the children do not have to move (Utah Legal Clinic: What are the standards in Utah for the division of marital and personal property of the marriage?).
Land and buildings
Utah law defines land and anything “permanently attached to it” as “real property.” Any real property purchased during the marriage is typically considered to be marital property even if the deed to the property is in only one spouse’s name.
Real property is usually divided by selling the property and dividing the money from the sale between the two spouses. If one spouse wishes to keep the real property, they may buy out the other spouse by giving that spouse the money they would have earned from the property’s sale. The court may order one spouse to refinance any mortgage on the real property in the name of the other spouse.
If the real property in question is the marital home, the court may consider other aspects of the situation. If there were children born during the marriage and one spouse is granted full custody of the children, that spouse may be allowed to continue residing in the marital home until the children move out, or until the spouse residing in the home remarries or invites anyone besides themselves and their children to begin residing in the home (Utah Legal Services: Divorce and Utah Legal Clinic: How will a court divide equity in a home or real property acquired during the marriage?).
Personal property is defined as “property that can be moved,” and typically includes all property within the marital home, such as furniture, appliances, and décor. Utah courts prioritize “allowing each person to set up a separate home” when dividing personal property (Utah Legal Services: Divorce).
Retirement and pension plans
If each spouse has a retirement or pension plan, the court will award each spouse their own benefits. If the two spouses share a retirement or pension plan, the court will usually grant the plan benefits to one spouse (usually the spouse who contributes to the plan) and require that the other spouse receive “something of equal value,” typically cash, personal property, or equity from the home (Utah Courts: Property Division). If there is no way for one spouse to receive something of equal value, the court will divide the retirement or pension plan benefits between the spouses.
Dividing retirement or pension plan benefits between spouses is an extremely complicated process and is highly dependent on what type of plan you and your spouse have. The plan will likely be divided using something called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. If your retirement or pension plan benefits are being divided using a QDRO, it is highly recommended that you consult with a lawyer to help you better understand that process.
Division of debts
Property is not all that’s divided up during divorce proceedings – spouses also must determine how they will divvy up their debts (Utah Courts: Debt Division). If a debt is associated with a property (such as a loan on a car), debt division can be fairly simple: typically, whoever is granted the property will then become responsible for the debt. There is a potential exception to this rule, however. If the person granted the property with the debt is disabled to the point where it affects their ability to earn income, and the other spouse is a high earner, the other spouse may remain responsible for the debt (Utah Legal Services: Divorce).
Spouses are unlikely to be held responsible for each other’s personal debts, such as credit card debt, unless they have some sort of agreement that one spouse will pay down the other’s debts.
If debt exists on property that was purchased with the intent to benefit the entire family, such as the marital home or kitchen appliances, the court will typically hold both spouses equally responsible for paying that debt.
Regardless of how spouses or the court divides debts, creditors are not required to honor the formal joint debt division. For example, if a car loan was taken out during the marriage, and the judge grants the car to one spouse during the divorce but that spouse fails to make payments on the loan, the car loan company can still seek payment from the other spouse, who would then have to file a motion with the court to force the nonpaying spouse to fulfill their debt obligation (UT §188.8.131.52). The only exception to this rule is medical debt for children. If medical debt has been assigned to one parent, the creditor may not reach out to the other parent for payment if the assigned parent does not pay (UT §184.108.40.206).
If both spouses signed a premarital agreement (commonly referred to as a “prenup”) that determines property and debt division, that agreement stands unless both spouses signed an update or revocation of the agreement. A premarital agreement is not enforceable only if a spouse can prove that the agreement wasn’t entered into voluntarily or that one spouse did not disclose the full details of their property or financial obligations.
Is there an option for a simplified divorce process for eligible couples?
No. Utah law does not provide for a simplified divorce process for certain couples. All couples must pursue the process outlined in the “What is the divorce process like in Utah?” section above. If couples agree on all divorce provisions and file a Stipulation, the divorce case will be less complex and will likely take less time, but all required steps in the process must still be completed.
What are temporary orders?
Temporary orders are temporary solutions to problems that need to be addressed before the rest of the divorce proceedings are legally settled, which, as mentioned above, will take one month at a minimum but will generally take much longer (Utah Courts: How to get a Temporary Order). In Utah law, temporary orders can address:
Creating a temporary plan for child support payments and parent-time – and, in some cases, child custody, if one parent is pursuing full custody.
Temporarily requiring one spouse to pay the other spouse alimony, or to pay their bills, debts, and/or attorney fees.
Creating a temporary plan for health insurance that addresses who pays the premiums, if one spouse can stay on the other’s plan during the divorce process, etc.
Temporarily allowing one spouse to retain aspects of marital property, i.e. determining which spouse can continue to live in the marital home while divorce proceedings are underway.
Other matters relating to divorce proceedings, including a temporary restraining order due to threats/history of domestic violence.
Temporary orders can also be issued after a divorce case is closed but during a petition to modify some aspect of the final divorce decree, such as a motion to change required alimony or child support.
How does the temporary order process work?
In order to request a temporary order, you need to have taken the divorce orientation and divorce education classes, if required (even if you and your spouse share children, you do not need to have completed the classes when requesting a temporary restraining order, according to Utah Courts: Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 65A). Either spouse can request a temporary order by filing a motion with the court.
If the temporary order request addresses child custody, you need to include a Parenting Plan (more information on Parenting Plans available on the Child Custody in Utah page). If the temporary order request addresses any sort of financial requirements, such as alimony or child support, you need to include a Financial Declaration (and a Child Support Worksheet, if applicable).
The other spouse can respond to a spouse’s temporary order request in two ways. If they agree with the proposed temporary order, the spouses can work together to file a Stipulation. If they do not agree, they need to file a Statement Opposing Motion for Temporary Order, which may also involve filing a Parenting Plan, Financial Declaration, and Child Support Worksheet, depending on what the requested order is addressing. This statement needs to be filed within a week of receiving notice of the temporary order.
It is up to the judge to grant or deny temporary order requests, though both parties can argue their case in a hearing, which will be scheduled within 14 days (more quickly than regular divorce hearings).
Temporary restraining orders
Temporary restraining orders should only be requested in extreme emergencies, which Utah defines as a situation “where there is a serious risk to someone’s physical safety or risk of other harm that cannot be undone” (Utah Courts: Application for Temporary Restraining Order).
If you believe a child is being harmed at any point during your divorce case, you will likely want to file a child protective order as opposed to a temporary restraining order, in addition to contacting law enforcement and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (Utah Courts: Child Protective Orders). The significant difference between restraining orders and protective orders is that violating a protective order is a crime and will be prosecuted as a criminal case. Violating a restraining order is considered “contempt of court” (basically, disobeying a judge) and will be handled by the judge in the case (Utah Legal Services: Divorce).
Temporary restraining orders can last for only ten days, at which point the judge will hold an Order to Show Cause hearing to determine if the order needs to continue (Utah Legal Clinic: What are temporary restraining orders, temporary orders and injunctions?). If the judge rules that the order should continue, the order is no longer referred to as a temporary restraining order, but rather a preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction is different from a permanent injunction, which is a clause within the divorce decree itself setting parameters for behavior, such as ordering one spouse to stay away from the other spouse’s work or home if there is a history of harassment.
To request a temporary restraining order, you need to fill out the Application for Temporary Restraining Order. You also need to notify your spouse that you’ve filed the application unless you can prove to the court that harm would be caused by such notification. The judge may require you to deposit money with the court that would cover costs, damages, and attorney’s fees if your spouse can prove the temporary restraining order was not needed. If the temporary restraining order involves children and the children are represented by a guardian ad litem, the guardian ad litem needs to be notified (more information on guardians ad litem available on the Child Custody in Utah page).
Can I get my former name back?
Yes, if you include a statement in the original divorce petition indicating that you would like your name to be changed (Utah Courts: Divorce). The statement needs to include your full legal name as you would like it to be restored. The judge will include a statement in the final divorce decree restoring your former name.
Who will pay the divorce court fees?
The court may order one spouse to pay the “costs, attorney fees, and witness fees, including expert witness fees” of the other spouse if it is necessary for the court case to proceed (UT §30.3.3). The court may also order one spouse to pay temporary alimony or child support during divorce proceedings (which won’t have any impact on the final decision regarding permanent alimony or child support).
If one spouse can prove that another spouse violated a court order regarding child custody, shared parenting time, child support, alimony, or property division, the court is more likely to order the other spouse to pay the fees related to the nonoffending spouse bringing their case.
It is not guaranteed that your spouse will be required to pay your court fees, and a person should never enter divorce proceedings with that expectation.
What is bifurcate divorce?
In a bifurcate divorce, the court will grant a divorce decree legally ending a marriage without having resolved all of the associated issues, such as alimony, child custody, child support, and property division, which will be resolved at a later point (Utah Courts: Motion to Grant Divorce and Decide Other Issues Later – Bifurcate Divorce). Bifurcate divorce is sometimes desirable if one spouse wishes to remarry as soon as possible, but it comes at the cost of likely taking much longer to resolve divorce-related issues.
To request a bifurcate divorce, you need to prove that a bifurcate divorce will be more convenient for both spouses, and that proceeding with a bifurcate divorce will not result in harm. If you are granted a bifurcate divorce and your Divorce Decree is officially signed, that does not excuse you from any requirements in the Utah divorce process, including mediation, divorce classes, child custody evaluations, etc.
Other useful resources
Divorce can be tricky and complicated, so it helps to be aware of all the resources at your disposal. Below are a few resources people usually find helpful.
Utah Family Law Attorneys
You and your spouse cannot share a lawyer during divorce proceedings, as that would be a conflict of interest for the lawyer, so if you had a family lawyer before the divorce, you both will likely need to find a new lawyer (Utah Legal Services: Divorce). The Utah State Bar has a lawyer directory, where you can find lawyers specific to divorce and family law issues.
A cheaper option for hiring a lawyer is to contract with them for “unbundled services,” also known as “limited scope legal representation.” Instead of a lawyer working with you on all aspects of your case, you can come to an agreement with a lawyer where they assist you with only specific components of your case, such as preparing documents or appearing in court for the final divorce hearing, and you are charged only for the time it takes to complete those tasks. To find a lawyer willing to provide unbundled services on the Utah State Bar’s lawyer directory, select “Search by Legal Category,” then select “Payment Options” and choose “Unbundled Services.” You can also find lawyers who charge a sliding scale fee (a fee based on a client’s income) by searching via “Payment Options” in the lawyer directory.
The Utah State Bar’s Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program is another helpful resource. It is intended to provide “legal representation for people whose income is too high to qualify for free legal services, but too low to pay a lawyer’s standard rate.” Lawyers used through this program typically charge between $50 - $75 per hour. You need to meet certain income standards to qualify.
You can contact Utah Dispute Resolution for volunteer mediators that provide free or low-cost mediation services in a variety of legal cases, including divorce and child custody cases. If you live in Summit County or Wasatch County, you can reach out to Mountain Mediation Center, which provides mediation and conflict resolution services on a sliding scale basis.
Free Legal Aid Societies
Legal aid societies provide legal help to people who can’t afford lawyers. They also typically publish useful resources that are accessible to everyone, regardless of income level. We found these societies in Utah especially useful:
Alliance to Lead Impact in Global Human Trafficking (ALIGHT): legal help for survivors of human trafficking (sex or labor). The legal aid does not need to relate to their human trafficking experience but can be for any reason, including divorce and child custody issues.
American Indian Legal Clinic: handles tribal concerns but also family issues, accessible by emailing email@example.com or calling (801) 581-5418.
Family Law Legal Site, handles all family law issues, including divorce, child custody, etc.
Homeless Youth Legal Clinic: provides general legal support to homeless people between the ages of 15 and 22, available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake: Virtual Family Law Clinic, serves all of Utah (despite the name), and accessible by emailing email@example.com or calling (801) 869-2895.
Rainbow Law Legal Site: legal issues specific to the LGBTQ community (including family law).
Timpanogos Legal Center (TLC) Document Clinic: for helping self-represented people going through divorce or child custody cases prepare their court and legal documents, accessible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (801) 469-8895.
Utah Free Legal Answers: online service for low-income users to access volunteer attorneys who can help with their legal questions.
Utah Legal Services: provides legal assistance (including representing clients in court) on a variety of issues, including family law. Available to low-income people, migrant farm workers, and Native Americans.
Utah Courts: Self-Help Center: provides free legal help in the following areas:
Explaining rights and responsibilities.
Answering questions about the law, court process, and options.
Providing court forms and assisting with completing such forms.
Providing information about a case.
Providing information about mediation services, pro bono/low-cost legal services, lawyer referral services, etc.
Providing information about resources found in law libraries.
Utah State Bar Virtual Legal Clinic: provides 30-minute appointments with volunteer attorneys who can help with your legal questions (but who can’t represent you in court).
Logan Thursday Night Bar: general civil legal help available on the second Thursday of every month from 5:30 – 7:00 pm at the Historic Cache County Courthouse, 199 N. Main St., Logan, UT 84321.
Southern Utah Bar Association (SUBA) Talk to a Lawyer Clinic: for residents of Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, and Washington counties whose income is below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, available at (435) 628-1604 ext. 3662.
Timpanogos Legal Center YCC Ogden Clinic: provides legal help related to family law, divorce, custody, domestic violence, etc. twice a month, on the first and third Thursday. Prospective clients need to call (801) 394-9456 on the Wednesday before to schedule an appointment (appointments fill early, so call in the morning).
The best place to search for books is your local library. Libraries often have several books about divorce, and you can check them out for free.
If your library doesn’t have anything useful, or you want to order and read books in the privacy of your home, we recommend these books:
A Handbook to Divorce in Utah: A Plain-English Legal Guide to Help You Make Informed Decisions by Laura Cabanilla, J.D. (available at ThriftBooks).
Utah Family Law, 2021-2022 ed. by Eric K. Johnson (available at Thomson Reuters).
Any of the Nolo books about divorce.
Utah State Statutes
All Utah state statutes, related to divorce or otherwise, are accessible to the public and are quite readable, even for someone who has no prior law experience or education. They can be a helpful resource for anyone navigating a divorce. The section of Utah law related to divorce begins in Utah Code: Husband and Wife: Divorce.
The Utah court system provides helpful links and resources on divorce to the public, including:
Utah Courts: Self-Help Resources/Self-Represented Parties: provides a variety of forms and links for those who are planning to represent themselves in court, can also connect you with the Self-Help Center to meet with lawyers who can help you understand your case better (but cannot represent you in court).
Check out our other articles and guides for additional information, such as:
If you have more questions, it may be wise to talk to a lawyer. JustAnswer is an online service to connect you with attorneys for quick conversations to get your questions answered, allowing you to avoid the hassle and expense of booking time with a lawyer. You can receive answers to your questions from experienced lawyers who know family law inside and out, and you won’t enter into any obligations or commitments to have them represent you in court.
Local Community Groups
Sometimes, the best support you can find is outside of the legal system entirely. Divorce is not just complicated legally, it is complicated emotionally. Such an experience can take a serious toll on you. Local community support groups, such as those hosted through a church or community organization, can be an excellent resource. You can connect with other people with similar experiences, receive emotional support, and find guidance on navigating the divorce process.
Utah Attorney Blogs
Kristopher K. Greenwood & Associates provides a variety of blogs on all aspects of the divorce procedure, from father’s rights to protective orders. Barton Wood Attorneys at Law write the Utah Family Law Blog, which addresses a range of issues related to family law, including divorce and child custody. Brown Family Law covers most divorce topics with a focus on the financial aspects of divorce.
OurFamilyWizard is a simple but capable app that helps divorced parents work together for the good of their children. It helps with messaging, scheduling, note-taking and record-keeping, expense tracking, and more.
If parents do need to return to court, either to modify a child custody order or to resolve another dispute, the data captured in OurFamilyWizard will help resolve disagreements about who said what, etc.
We tested out OurFamilyWizard and wrote up a review to help you decide if it will be helpful for you.