Important Things to Know About Divorce Law in Utah

The landlocked state of Utah is the 13th largest state in terms of area and 30th most populated state in the US. In the US, marital affairs and divorce are governed by each individual state. That means every state has complete control over its marital laws and rules. That’s why this article will focus on important things you need to know about filing for divorce in Utah.

What are the types of divorce In Utah?

A long list of rules and regulations define all the processes of divorce in each state, including Utah. Therefore it’s important to understand enough about the divorce process to determine the best steps to take for your particular case, starting with the different options available for divorce.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is when the spouses either don’t agree to get a divorce or do not agree to the terms of the divorce. As a result of the unresolved issues, the couple will have to attend court hearings or even a trial to argue their case. Because of the risk involved in such a case, it is recommended that each spouse hires an attorney that will look out for their best interests and fight for them in court.

Contested divorces are by far the most expensive, as legal costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars in extremely heated cases that last a long time.

Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested divorce is when both parties agree to the divorce and are able to come to an agreement on all the terms of their divorce. Issues that need to be settled to qualify for an uncontested divorce include the division of marital assets and debts, child custody and support, and spousal support, if any.

If a couple is able to sit down to resolve all issues, they have a chance to save a lot of money and end their marriage in the shortest possible terms. In cases of uncontested divorce, there is no need to even hire an attorney. Or a couple can choose to just use an attorney for limited support, like checking over their settlement agreement or assisting with the paperwork.

DIY Divorce

DIY divorce means “do-it-yourself” divorce, which is exactly how it sounds. The entire divorce process is done without the help of any 3rd party assistance. This is the cheapest possible option.

Divorce documents can be downloaded from the court website free of charge. Completing the papers can be a challenge, but following the self-help guide provided by the court, couples can achieve this task.

Just be aware when attempting a DIY divorce that if the paperwork isn’t done correctly, the court could require you to start the whole process over again which may even mean having to pay the filing fee a second time.

Online Divorce

Online divorce is the perfect option if a couple wants to go the DIY route but needs help with the paperwork. For a much lower cost than hiring an attorney, an online divorce service will take on all of the paperwork for you.

Though every online divorce service is slightly different, they all follow the same basic steps. If your divorce is uncontested, you will sign up on the site and fill out an online questionnaire to share the main details about your case. Based on the information you provide, the online divorce site will select and complete the exact forms needed for your specific case. Many sites make the completed paperwork available in 2 – 3 business days. You can download them online and print them or have them mailed to your house. Sign them in front of a notary and file them with the court. It’s that simple.

Mediation

In cases where a couple is unable to resolve any issues about their case, they may voluntarily seek mediation or the court may order them to attend mediation.  Mediation is a non-partial process where both spouses meet with a neutral third party, known as a mediator, to go over their side of the issue and work towards a mutually beneficial compromise.

By resolving any contentious issues through mediation, the couple will then have the opportunity to complete a settlement agreement and move forward with their case as an uncontested divorce.

Mediation isn’t cheap (usually around $900 – $1000 per session), but it is still much cheaper than paying an attorney or having to move forward with a contested case that includes multiple hearings and a heated trial. Most couples are able to resolve their issues in one session, but in some cases it may take two or three sessions.

Important things to know about Divorce Law In Utah

Before starting your divorce, here is some more important information to consider that could help you save some time and simplify the process.

Residency requirements

In order to file for a divorce in Utah, the couple must meet the residency requirements, otherwise the divorce will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

To qualify to file for a dissolution of marriage in Utah, you or your spouse has to live in the county where you want to file for at least 3 months. And if you have minor children from the marriage, you need to live in the state with your children for at least 6 months before filing.

It is important to make sure that you file in the proper county. The petition should be filed with the county court’s office in the county where you currently reside.

Grounds for divorce

The state of Utah understands that many couples prefer not to have their dirty secrets aired out in a courtroom and that many couples are looking for the fastest and easiest way to end their marriage with minimal costs. Therefore, Utah recognizes both no-fault and fault based grounds for divorce.

Couples seeking an uncontested divorce should use a no-fault ground for divorce. In Utah the only no-fault ground is “irreconcilable differences,” which basically just means that the couple no longer gets along and are unable to save their marriage.

Fault-based grounds, which must be proven in court, include:

  • Inability to perform sexually
  • Adultery
  • Willful neglect
  • Willful desertion for one or more years
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Incurable insanity
  • Conviction of a felony

Filing your case

The spouse that files for the divorce is called the “petitioner.” The other spouse is called the “respondent.”

After filing the petition, the petitioner is required to serve their spouse with a copy of the petition and summons. This can be done by anybody over the age of 18 who is not a party in the case, but many people choose to use a sheriff or professional server.

Your spouse will have 21 days to respond if they live within the state, and 30 days if they live outside of the state.

In an uncontested case, where the spouse is already in agreement about the divorce, the service is relatively easy.

If the respondent fails to respond, the petitioner can request a divorce by default. After the 30 day mandatory waiting period the judge may grant the default divorce, accepting the terms requested by the petitioner.

Property Division

Long ago, Utah law used to punish the spouse who caused the divorce by taking away their rights to property during the divorce proceeding. But as the state began to take a more practical approach to divorce, that practice was discontinued.

Now Utah is an equitable distribution state. This means that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. The court divides marital assets in such a way that the distribution puts both parties in the best possible situation.

When the couple agrees upon the split themselves, the court will usually go along with what they have decided, assuming that it is fair and in the best interests of any children that may be involved in the divorce.

Child Custody and Support

Utah courts always put the best interests of the child first, and it is assumed that nobody knows the children better than the parents. Therefore, if you and your spouse can come up with an agreement about child custody and child support, the court will usually accept it, so long as it meets the best interests of the child.

If parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court may order the couple to attend meditation to come up with an agreement. If that doesn’t work, the court will order child custody and child support under its own discretion.

The court will decide on both physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody determines with which parent the child primarily lives. Typically, one parent will be the custodial parent (providing the home for the child), and the other parent is given visitation rights. On some occasions, the court may award joint physical custody, which means that each spouse will get to spend a minimum of 111 nights with the child each year.

Legal custody determines which parent will make major decisions in the child’s life, such as school, health, and religion. In most cases, joint physical custody is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

Factors that the court will consider when determining custody include:

  • The moral standards of each parent
  • The history and nature of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to care for the child
  • Each parent’s willingness to allow frequent contact between the child and the other parent
  • The welfare of the children (any history of violence or abuse by either parent)
  • The preferences of the children

When determining child support, the state of Utah has child support guidelines that apply in all cases. Both spouses’ income and all main child related expenses are considered when calculating child support obligations.

Either, or both, parents may be ordered to pay child support. Usually the non-custodial parent is the one that provides support to assist the custodial parent with financial obligations. There are official Child Support Guidelines which are used to calculate the amount of child support. Other factors that the court may consider when determining the amount of support include:

  • The parent’s standard of living
  • The parent’s general wealth and income
  • The ability of each parent to earn a salary
  • The needs of each parent and the children
  • The age of the parents and children
  • The responsibility or need of either parent to care for others

In the state of Utah, child support is paid until the child reaches the age of eighteen, but can be extended until the child completes secondary school.

It should also be noted that in the state of Utah, if you have minor children, you will be required to take a one hour orientation course and two hour divorce education course. Both courses are designed to help you to best support your children through the process of divorce to minimize the effects on your child.

Some frequently asked questions

Does each party have to retain their own attorney?

Though the couple is not required to hire any attorney, if they do, the couple cannot have the same attorney. Using the same attorney is considered a conflict of interest, even in an amicable divorce. Thus, it is not permitted in Utah.

Can a divorce be completed in Utah without going to court

Utah does not require that you attend the final hearing, so if your divorce is uncontested and includes a fair settlement agreement, you can get divorced in Utah without even going to court.

How much does divorce cost in Utah?

The filing fee in Utah is $318, so the lowest your divorce will cost is $318 unless you qualify for a filing fee waiver due to financial hardship. Beyond the filing fee, costs will vary depending on the type of divorce and services used. Filing services, counseling, financial experts, lawyers, mediation, and more can add to the cost of the divorce. On average, an uncontested divorce without an attorney will cost between $318 – $1000. Mediation and professional services can increase the cost to $1000 – $3500. Contested divorces will cost significantly more (as much as $30,000 or more for each spouse) because of the extensive time and legal costs associated with this option.

How long does a divorce take?

A lot of factors can affect the length of your divorce, including whether it is contested or uncontested, how quickly you serve your spouse and how quickly they respond, how long it takes to reach a settlement agreement, etc. If everything is in order and done in the shortest terms, the quickest you can complete a divorce in Utah is 30 days, as the state has a mandatory 30 day waiting period before the judge will sign the divorce decree. The average uncontested divorce takes around 3 months. A contested divorce can take more than a year.

Endnote

Divorce can be emotionally exhausting for anyone. But after some time, things do eventually get back to normal, and your new life after divorce replaces all your bad memories. Before moving on, you must first tackle the challenge of divorce. An amicable divorce always offers the best opportunity to move on from a failed marriage the most quickly with minimal costs and minimal effort. In any case, the most important part of a divorce is regaining yourself and your happiness.

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