As one of the top five states in the United States with the lowest divorce rate, Utah has seen varied percentages of divorcing couples over the past decade. Among Utah’s counties, Morgan County records the lowest divorce rate, with 5.9% per 1,000 people, while Grand County has the highest rate of 20.9% per 1,000 people. This means that even with the low chances of divorce in the state, couples may still separate for various personal reasons, such as adultery, infidelity, domestic violence, significant life events, or a lack of commitment.
Divorce is an emotional process that can also bring forth various financial and legal considerations the couple should be prepared for. These issues can involve alimony, child support, and property and asset division, which require the help of a mediator, an attorney, or the court — whichever works best for the case.
Regardless of the reason for filing a divorce, you should be aware that this procedure can be long and complicated. The sections below will discuss the specifics you need to know about divorce in the Beehive State, along with legal resources that can be beneficial to you.
Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Utah
When a couple in Utah decides to end their marriage, most of them file for divorce, while others opt for legal separation. Although divorce and legal separation seemingly have the same meaning, these two have separate implications, procedures, and court decrees. A Utah divorce means that the marriage has ended, while a legal separation implies that the couple may be legally separated but are still married under the law.
Couples who do not want to go through the expensive and long process of divorce opt for legal separation, especially when they have already agreed on the terms involving property and debt division. The common factor between divorce and legal separation is that in both scenarios, the record of the marriage will still be kept by the court.
On the other hand, if you want to end your marriage and remove any traces of this union, you can decide to file for an annulment in Utah with your spouse. This process completely rules out the existence of your marriage. However, you and your spouse need to meet certain requirements to be able to file for an annulment in Utah. These include:
One spouse was under 18 years old and did not legally marry before May 14, 2019. But this does not apply to all cases, since even if the spouse was 16 or 17, as long as they obtained consent from their parents or legal guardian, along with a juvenile court authorization, then the marriage will be valid.
One spouse was married to someone else, particularly if that spouse’s previous divorce decree was not finalized by the court.
The marriage was between close relatives, like cousins or siblings, who are not permitted to marry.
Is Utah a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Utah has been a no-fault divorce state since it reformed its divorce laws 1987. This means that couples who plan to file for divorce do not need to set grounds for the case. To file a no-fault divorce case in Utah, the couple must meet certain requirements, such as living separately for three years. They can also present grounds for irreconcilable differences.
How to File for Divorce in Utah
Now that you have grasped the significance of divorce in Utah, along with it being a no-fault divorce state, you will be introduced to the process of filing for divorce. Take note that this process will vary for different cases, and the cost will depend on how long the procedure runs.
1. Determine Your Eligibility and Grounds for Divorce
Before filing any papers for a divorce complaint in Utah, you must understand important pointers, such as the residency requirements. In Utah, to be eligible to file for divorce, either spouse must have resided for at least three months in the state or county where the divorce will be filed.
Moreover, you need to identify the grounds for the divorce. This is because even though it is ruled that Utah is a no-fault divorce state, it also allows filing for fault-based divorce cases. To file for a no-fault divorce, you only need to show that you and your spouse have not been living together under a decree of separate maintenance for three years or show proof of irreconcilable differences. Meanwhile, if you want to file for a fault-based divorce in Utah, you have to determine the grounds leading to your separation, like adultery, insanity, chronic drinking, neglect, or physical abuse.
2. File Your Petition for Divorce
After determining your eligibility and reasons for divorce, you may file your divorce complaint in the Utah District Court of the county where you and your spouse reside. For both fault- and no-fault-based divorce, the petitioner has to file several documents, such as:
Verified Petition for Divorce.
Declaration of Jurisdiction and Grounds for Divorce.
3. Serve the Summons and Petitions to Your Spouse
You, the petitioner, will have to serve or deliver a copy of the summons and petitions to your spouse, the respondent, within 120 days after you file the divorce. There are several factors that can affect how you serve these papers, depending on where you are currently in your divorce case.
For instance, if your case has already begun, you have to deliver the paper to all parties involved in the process, including your spouse, their lawyer (if they hired one), or their licensed paralegal practitioner (if they are represented by one). You can use various options to serve the papers, such as by handing them in person, mailing or emailing them, or leaving the papers in the person’s home or office.
However, if you can’t serve the papers on your own, you can have them served by a U.S. Marshal, constable, sheriff, or any person of legal age. This person should have no records of conviction of a felony, should not be involved with the party, and should not be a respondent in a protective order proceeding.
But if you are only beginning a new case or filing a Motion to Enforce Order, you need to serve the papers in person or by mail. In the event that you cannot locate the other party, you can ask permission from the court to use an alternative service. If you are permitted to do so, you can file a Motion for Alternative Service. This motion will give you numerous options to notify your spouse, such as:
Utah Press Association’s Legal Notice.
A combination of all these methods.
4. Wait for Your Spouse’s Response
The respondent, your spouse, will have 21-30 days to reply to the summons that you served. This part of the process tends to be complicated as it depends on the response of the other party.
For instance, if your spouse disagrees with the divorce complaint, they will file an Answer and a Counterpetition, if necessary. If this happens, you and your spouse will have to exchange a Financial Declaration, a statement of oath about each party’s debts, assets, income, and monthly living expenses. Both parties also have to sign an Initial Disclosure, which states that both parties will disclose information that will help back up their case or defend it.
These pieces of information include:
Documents supporting the case.
Documents referred to in pleadings.
Agreements to indemnify, satisfy, and reimburse.
On the other hand, if your spouse agrees with the complaint, they will file a Stipulation. This refers to an agreement stating that the other party agrees with the terms stipulated in the divorce. This process will also apply if your spouse does not file an Answer within the given timeline of 21-30 days. If the latter happens, you can file paperwork for a default divorce.
5a. Allow the Judge to Review the Documents (for uncontested default divorce)
If your spouse agrees with the complaint or if they do not file an answer, leading you to proceed with a default divorce, all you need to do now is wait for the final documents to be reviewed by the judge. The length of this process will vary depending on whether you and your spouse have children. If there are children involved in the case, the court will require both parties to present proof of income and Certificates of Completion of Divorce Education courses or file a Motion to Waive Education Requirements. If all of these essentials have been met, the judge will sign the Divorce Decree, and your uncontested and default divorce case will be resolved.
Take note that there is a 30-day waiting period for divorce cases in Utah, so even if your spouse agrees to everything in the case, you will still have to wait for the given timeline before the court can finalize your divorce decree. You can also choose to file a Motion to Waive the Divorce Waiting Period if you want to move forward with the case as fast as possible.
For uncontested divorces, this is where the process ends.
5b. Attend a Case Management Conference (for contested divorce)
If your divorce is contested, you and your spouse will have to file a case management conference, which is an initial hearing scheduled by the court to discuss matters related to your case. Utah courts have divided this conference into three tracks, depending on the complexity of the divorce.
Track 1, which is the standard track, involves cases that do not need complex discovery and expert witnesses.
Track 2, the complex discovery track, is where matters like business valuation between the couple are discussed.
Track 3, the significant custody dispute track, tackles cases that involve allegations of domestic violence and child abuse.
6. Attend a Mandatory Mediation/Pretrial Conference (for contested divorce)
After you and your spouse have attended a case management conference and discussed the case details, you will be required to attend a mandatory mediation. For this process, both you and your spouse will be jointly responsible for seeking a mediator and paying for their services. You and your spouse also have the option to be exempt from mediation by filing a Motion to Excuse Mediation with the court.
If both parties aren’t able to resolve the issues during mediation but also don’t want to proceed to court, you can try to attend a pre-trial conference, where you can discuss a settlement for the divorce.
If attending this conference is not enough to resolve your case, you will have to take it to court.
7. Proceed to Trial (for contested divorce)
This is the last and most complicated step to resolving a divorce in Utah. Depending on the complexity of your case, a judge or a jury with a judge presiding will be reviewing your claim. During the hearing, you can discuss various aspects of your divorce, such as child custody and alimony. After you and your spouse have stated each side of the case, the judge or jury will proceed to sign the final decree of your divorce.
How Property Is Divided in a Utah Divorce
In a Utah divorce case, the law requires an equitable distribution of marital property, which refers to assets the couple acquired during the marriage. The common properties that couples typically divide during a divorce include personal property, family homes, jewelry, and intangible financial assets like benefits, dividends, and income. Each party should also divide the marital debts during this process.
Take note that equitable distribution does not automatically mean fair, as the court will consider various factors for the division. These factors can be:
The length of the marriage.
Each spouse’s occupation, age, and health.
The sources and amount of income and related financial matters.
As a rule of thumb, Utah divorce courts usually revert people back to their economic lifestyle prior to the marriage. This may apply particularly if the union is below 10 years, which is considered a short-term marriage in Utah. For long-term marriages, where the couple has been married for 10 years and above, the property division typically ends with a 50/50 split for each party.
Moreover, Utah divorce courts consider alimony as part of the marital property division procedure. The court usually bases the amount the other spouse will receive on the other party’s earning capacity and ability to pay. Factors such as who has custody of the children will also be considered when discussing alimony, along with changes like an increase in the obligated spouse’s income.
Utah Divorce FAQs
The sections below will discuss the most frequently asked questions about divorce in Utah. These will include information such as the duration of a divorce, the cost associated with the process, and specifics such as remarrying and records accessibility.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Utah
Now that you have identified the process, cost, and requirements for a divorce, you may need additional assistance to proceed with your case. The divorce process can be truly confusing, which is why we have gathered legal resources that can help you begin your divorce in Utah.
Online Court Assistance Program
The Online Court Assistance Program is designed to help petitioners who are not represented by an attorney prepare and file their cases. The program assists petitioners in selecting an interview depending on their document needs and completing the chosen interview to create their documents. These interviews can be about divorce as a petitioner or respondent, temporary separation, or financial declaration. The website also helps the individual print the documents and submit them at the courthouse of the county where the divorce will be filed.
Utah Legal Services
Utah Legal Services is an online platform that can help address specific concerns about divorce in the state. This website documents answers to questions like attorney requirements, the duration of a divorce, the process, and which forms a petitioner needs to get their case started.
Utah Self-Help Center
The Utah State Court’s Self-Help Center provides community members, particularly those who are not represented by a lawyer, with free legal assistance. Its website offers easy-to-understand context about the individual’s rights and responsibilities, whether they are the petitioner or respondent in the divorce case.
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