Divorce is a relatively straightforward process in Utah, which helps make what is ordinarily an emotional, turbulent time, more approachable for couples who decide to end their marriages. The spouse filing for divorce must have lived in the filing county for at least three months before filing for divorce.
Utah permits both no-fault and fault-based divorce. In a no-fault case, the parties simply state that they have "irreconcilable differences." If they wish to file a fault-based complaint, they must choose from the following grounds:
- Impotency of the other spouse when the marriage began
- Adultery committed by the other spouse
- Willful desertion by the other spouse for more than one year
- Willful neglect of the other spouse to provide the family with the necessities of life
- Habitual drunkenness
- A felony conviction
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Incurable insanity
- When the spouses are legally separated and have not lived together for at least three years
How To Begin
To file for dissolution of marriage in Utah, the filing party must following the proper procedures and submit the appropriate documents to the court.
- To begin the case, the petitioning spouse must file the initial documents. The petitioner must also pay the $310 filing fee to the court. Couples divorcing in Utah are encouraged to use the state's Online Court Assistance Program, or OCAP, to complete the required forms.
- After the documents are filed, the petitioner must "serve" them, along with a Summons, on the respondent spouse within 120 days of filing the divorce. The petitioner spouse must also provide the court with a Proof of Service form once the respondent has been served.
- Once the respondent has been served, he has 21 days to answer the complaint.
- Utah law imposes a 90-day waiting period between the filing of the divorce and the court's grant of a final decree of divorce. Although Utah courts previously waived this requirement when both parties agreed to it, the law no longer permits waivers except in rare cases.
If the parties agree on all the issues, they can "stipulate" to the divorce. They must submit a written agreement to the court.
Utah courts divide property according to the equitable distribution rule of property division. Courts look at numerous factors when awarding property, including:
- The spouses' abilities to support themselves after the divorce
- The origins of the spouses' property
- The health status of the parties
- Length of the marriage
- Education of the parties
- The distribution of debts and child support obligations
Utah courts can require either spouse to pay spousal support, called alimony, after considering the following factors:
- The financial condition and needs of each spouse
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- The ability of the paying spouse to pay for spousal support
- The duration of the marriage
- Who has custody of the children
- Whether the spouse receiving alimony helped the other spouse in his or her education or career
- Any misconduct or fault of either spouse
Child Custody and Child Support
When the couple has children, Utah divorce law requires both parties to attend a course on the effects of divorce on children. Utah courts determine child custody and child support matters by examining the best interests of the children.
Utah law favors joint custody whenever possible. When determining custody, courts consider the following factors:
- Which parent will likely act in the child's best interest
- Which parent is most likely to allow the child to maintain a good relationship with the other parent
- The bond between the child and each parent
- Whether joint custody will meet the child's physical, psychological, and emotional needs
- The parents' ability to make shared decisions regarding the child's welfare
- Each parent's ability to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- How much each parent helped raise the child before the divorce
- The geographical distance between the parents' homes
- The child's wishes
The parents' maturity level
The parents' ability to cooperate with each other
Any history of child abuse, spousal abuse, or kidnapping
The parents' morals and past conduct
Either or both spouses may be ordered to pay child support. The child support order will also decide who pays for the health insurance and education for the child. Utah divorce law requires that the parties file a financial affidavit detailing all of their income, assets, expenses, and debts, including child support obligations for other children from other relationships.
Utah child support guidelines state the amount of financial support presumed necessary to support the children. Parents can use the state's support calculator to get an idea of how much they are likely to pay.
The Decision to Divorce
Divorce is often labeled a costly, adversarial process, but it does not have to be that way. If you and your spouse can agree on the issues in your case, you can work together to achieve an amicable resolution. If your divorce is relatively uncomplicated, you may be able to handle it on your own. In most cases, however, divorcing couples should seek the help of a qualified Utah divorce attorney.