According to the Utah government website (1), the marriage rate for the state has experienced a downward trend since the year 2002. In 2015, the marriage rate was 8.1 per 1,000 people in the state. At the other end of the spectrum, the divorce rate in the state was 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people in 2015—a rate that has stayed fairly consistent over the past quarter of a century.
Even so, plenty of people do get divorced in the state of Utah, and those who do find that divorce can take an emotional toll, leaving many unsure of what to expect. Because of this, the state now has a mandatory divorce orientation course which all divorcing couples who have minor children must complete. The divorce cannot be finalized until both parties have completed the course. The course not only clarifies the divorce process and details the consequences of divorce, it also offers a wealth of resources for custody and child support issues.
While the aftermath of a divorce can certainly be painful, for most, divorce does get easier as time passes, and having the necessary information can help make the process less painful. Keep reading to find out what your rights are and how various issues are determined in a divorce.
If you need legal help, you can find lawyers experienced in family law to help with your case. There are also resources for divorce papers and online divorce services, plus child support information if you have minor children. You can also find various other support services to help you heal and deal with domestic abuse issues.
In the state of Utah, both the petitioner and the respondent must have been actual residents of both the state and the county where the action is brought for a period of three months. This residency requirement also applies to members of the armed forces who are not legal residents of the state but have been stationed in the state under orders from the U.S. military.
Once a petition for divorce has been filed in the state, no hearing or decree of divorce will be entered into until 90 days have passed. This 90-day period does not apply in cases where both parties have completed the mandatory educational course for divorcing parents.
The majority of states now offer a no-fault divorce—as opposed to the filing spouse being required to name a “fault” when filing for divorce. There are 17 true no-fault states, meaning you do not have the option of claiming fault and may only state irreconcilable differences. Among the remaining states, while filing no-fault is an option, you may also file under traditional fault grounds. Utah is one of those thirty-three states.
When a Petition for Divorce is filed in the state of Utah, the divorce can either be filed under no-fault, or if specific grounds are stated, there must be evidence to back up those allegations. Allowed “faults” in the state include:
The Petitioner will file for divorce, and the Respondent will be served with divorce papers and must then respond to those papers. The Petition for Divorce can be filed in the district court of the county where either spouse currently resides.
The Petitioner must serve copies of the Verified Petition for Divorce, the Court Summons and any Temporary Injunctions to the Respondent via mail or personal service. The divorce cannot proceed through the Utah court system until there is proof of service. Once the other spouse has been served, he or she has 21 days to file a response to the divorce petition—if a response is not filed within this time, the chance to respond could be lost.
If all issues of the divorce—include asset division, spousal support and child custody—are agreed upon by both spouses, then an uncontested divorce is possible. An uncontested divorce is typically much faster because there is no need to appear in court (unless there are minor children of the marriage). Although many uncontested divorces later turn into contested divorces, if you and your spouse are in complete agreement, then a Verified Complaint for Divorce can be filed with the Clerk of your local county court.
If there is only partial agreement - or no agreement - about divorce issues, then both spouses will be required to attend a hearing to identify the issues which remain unresolved. If the divorce is contested, then the spouse who is served with the divorce Petition will answer, possibly refuting details in the complaint and/or making counterclaims.
Both attorneys will then use the discovery process to request documents, interview the other party and interview witnesses if necessary. Discovery can be a drawn-out - and expensive - process, depending on the number and scope of issues which must be hashed out.
If agreements cannot be reached, then a trial will be scheduled, and the judge could end up making decisions for the couple. These decisions may not please either party. Therefore, whenever possible, couples should do everything in their power to make their own decisions.
Utah is an equitable distribution state, which means all assets are split fairly—which might not necessarily be equally. Deciding what is “fair” takes several factors into account, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of each party, the occupations of each party and the amounts and sources of income, as well as other related matters.
If a marriage is very short-term, the court could make the decision to put people back into the economic position they had prior to the marriage—each partner gets what he or she had prior to the marriage.
In longer-term marriages, each partner is entitled to whatever they brought into the marriage (non-marital property) unless that property has been combined with marital property or used in a manner which gives it the legal status of marital property. In the case of a marriage of long duration, a major change in the income of one spouse, due to the collective efforts of both, is a consideration in the division of marital asset, causing a compensating adjustment.
Asset division during a divorce can be nullified by the presence of a premarital agreement which can affect real and personal property, including earnings, other income and retirement benefits. Premarital agreements do not govern child support or other child care expenses.
The marital home will either be sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses, or one spouse will be awarded the house and the other spouse will be awarded other marital assets to equal the worth of the marital home.
Retirement and pensions plans will also be divided, and are usually regulated under plan policies as well as federal and state law. Typically, anything paid into a retirement account by either spouse from the date of the marriage becomes marital property, and therefore falls under the equitable distribution laws of the state of Utah during a divorce. If both spouses have retirement plans which are roughly equal, then each spouse could be awarded his or her own benefits.
The court and the judge have jurisdiction over an award of spousal support, however the court is bound to consider - at a minimum - the following factors:
While fault in the divorce is not generally a consideration in the award of spousal support, in certain cases it can be. As an example, if one spouse dissipated a large amount of marital assets during the marriage through gambling, adultery, etc., the judge could “equalize” the dissipated assets through a larger award of spousal support.
In the state of Utah, spousal support cannot be ordered for a duration longer than the number of years the marriage lasted, barring any extenuating circumstances. Further, spousal support automatically ends upon the remarriage or death of the former spouse.
Like most states, the court makes decisions regarding child custody based on the best interests of the child. While joint custody will be considered in every case, the best interests of the child make the final determination. If one parent does not want custody, this does not automatically mean custody will be granted to the other parent, only that this factor will be taken into consideration when awarding custody. The following factors will be considered as well:
The court may also consider any other factors it finds relevant when determining child custody.
Child Support - In the state of Utah, child support is based on the Income Shares Model, which calculates monthly support based proportionally on each parent’s income as well as the custody situation. All income will be verified through past W2’s and child support worksheets. The standard of living prior to the divorce will be considered, as well as the wealth and income of each parent, the ability of the payor to earn, the ability of the payee to earn, and the needs of all those involved.
In the state of Utah, a marriage may be annulled for any of the following reasons:
While not all states recognize a legal separation, the state of Utah does. A temporary separation order can be filed without filing a Petition for Divorce. Temporary orders are valid for a year from the date of the hearing, or until a Petition for Divorce is filed or the case is dismissed.
During a legal separation, division of assets, spousal support, custody and child support will all be determined under the umbrella of separate maintenance. The grounds for a legal separation in the state of Utah include:
When the court has made their rulings in a divorce and the paperwork signed, both parties are legally bound by the divorce decree. Violations of any part of the agreement by either party can result in a contempt of court charge. The most common types of violations following a divorce are non-payment of child support or spousal support, non-compliance with the visitation schedule or withholding visitation. That being said, if the circumstances of one spouse changes significantly following the divorce decree, then a motion may be filed to alter the original agreement.
Need a Divorce Lawyer? This service gives you the opportunity to present your case get matched with a pre-screened local lawyer willing to take your case.
Utah State Bar Referral Service - This is an easy to use service to help you find qualified and licensed members of the Utah State Bar according to your needs.
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Divorce Orientation and Education for Parents
Parents of minor children who are separating or getting a divorce are required to attend a mandatory parenting class on the effects of divorce and separation on children. Learn more about locations, dates, and class fees by clicking on the link above. This will take you to the UT State Courts site.
Divorce Education for Children
The Divorce Education for Children program is a free class offered by the Utah State Courts to help children with the transition during a parent's divorce. The class helps children learn skills to better express their feelings, and help them understand that they are not alone and that divorce is not their fault. This class is intended for children ages 9 - 12, and is offered in Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo. People who are interested in registering their child for a class may do so at https://www.utcourts.gov/specproj/dived/children.html or call 801-578-3897 for more information.
There are divorce groups throughout the state, many offering support for children impacted by their parents separation, as well as meetings for adults offered through Divorce Care.