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How Much Does A Legal Separation Cost?

How Much Does A Legal Separation Cost

The total cost of a legal separation can range anywhere from less than $1,000 for an amicable case resolved by a separation agreement to over $100,000 for a hotly contested matter involving battles for child custody, alimony and the disposition of a highly complex marital estate. The total cost of any given case, however, turns upon several important factors.

Location is almost as important in determining the cost of a legal separation as it is in real estate. Divorce attorneys and third-party professionals such as psychologists, accountants and private investigators face higher operating costs in large cities than they do in rural areas, and they pass these costs on to their clients. Furthermore, urban areas tend to have greater concentrations of high-income clients with complex legal problems, which exert an upward pressure on legal fees.

With all other variables equalized, a case that requires the services of third-party professionals will cost thousands more than a simpler case where the lawyers can handle everything. Some cases demand the use of real property appraisers, accountants, child psychologists and other expert witnesses. In matters involving the taking of deposition testimony, parties face additional costs incurred in paying the court reporter and purchasing certified copies of the deposition transcript. In addition, the parties’ attorneys will bill their clients for interviewing the experts, arranging, preparing for and conducting the depositions and presenting the witnesses at trial.

Attorney’s fees vary according to the type of divorce and the attorney. Some attorneys have a set fee for no-contest divorces and include all court costs and other fees in the price. Other attorneys charge by the hour and require a retainer fee after the first consultation. The retainer covers preparing the paperwork, the court filing fees, running an ad in the newspaper (if necessary) and the court appearance. If the case is particularly difficult or contested, the retainer fee is just the first installment of the total payment. Retainer fees can start at $1,000 and go up from there.

Goals of Legal Separation

The behavior of the parties and the goals they seek to reach in a case can significantly influence the overall cost of the proceeding. A party who repeatedly fails to pay child or spousal support as ordered or who refuses to abide by court orders regarding child custody can necessitate the filing and hearing of contempt motions. Couples embroiled in bitter fights often can communicate only through their attorneys, and scorched-earth policies on the part of one or both parties can lead to lengthy and expensive hearings on issues that other parties may have been able to resolve without a fight. Generally, parties who remain able to treat each other with respect and understand the value of a reasoned compromise will spend far less money obtaining their legal separation than those who do not. Utah offers the choice of an annulment, dissolution or a divorce for couples ending their marriages. The attorney’s fees, court costs and other financial obligations vary with each case. To determine how much a divorce costs in Utah, you must look at each case separately. The other key factor for determining cost is how the motion was filed and who filed it with the courts.

The paperwork required for a divorce in Utah is available through an attorney, at the local library or on the Internet. Each county requires the same paperwork for a divorce petition. However, different counties require additional paperwork for child support and other forms listing assets or amendments to the petition. The cost of the various forms range from free at the library to hundreds of dollars through attorney services.

You must pay a fee when filing a divorce petition. The filing fee varies by county and is usually included in the charges when you’re using an attorney. You can file the paperwork on your own and avoid additional attorney fees. If you have a problem paying the filing fee, ask the clerk for an indigent form to request payment arrangements or a reduced filing fee.

If your spouse has retained an attorney and filed the petition for divorce, or filed the petition without an attorney, you can contact legal aid for advice. Utah Legal Services offers free and reduced priced services to those in need. You must go through an assessment before speaking with an attorney. There is no such thing as a court appointed or free lawyer for divorce or legal separation cases.

The court has the right to order you and your spouse to participate in a family counseling session. Some courts have counselors’ on-call for this service; other county courts require that you retain your own counselor. You may be required to pay for the counseling in addition to the cost of the divorce. Community organizations often provide counseling services on a sliding scale or free for low-income clients.

A legal separation is like putting your marriage on hold. Typically, both spouses move to different homes and start living separate lives. A legal separation is more formal than just moving apart though. You would need to get a court to approve your decision and put together a legal separation agreement. This is an agreement that divides property, sets an arrangement for raising your children, and ends the financial connection you have to your spouse.

A divorce actually ends your marriage. Beyond this major difference, a divorce is quite similar to a legal separation. You would need to get a court to approve this decision and come up with an agreement that divides property and figures out the plan for your children. Since divorce and legal separation are pretty similar, they may cost about the same and take around the same amount of time to process.

Reasons to Consider a Legal Separation

Couples might consider a legal separation for both personal and financial reasons.
• If you’re not 100 percent sure you want to end your marriage, a legal separation can give you space to figure things out while still protecting you financially.
• Couples that can’t go through a divorce for religious reasons also turn to legal separation.
• A legal separation would mean one spouse may still be eligible for health insurance coverage from the other spouse’s job, whereas a divorce would end this coverage.
• A legal separation also allows you and your spouse to continue filing taxes jointly, which can lead to some tax benefits.
• Finally, you need to be married for at least 10 years to receive Social Security and military benefits from your spouse’s work. You may be able to use a legal separation to stay technically married until you reach this point.

Reasons to Choose a Divorce

In other situations, a divorce may be preferred.
• If you don’t see any financial benefit from a legal separation and are certain you want to end your marriage, it might be best to go straight to a divorce. Otherwise, you’ll spend time and money getting a legal separation only to have to go through the process all over again to get a divorce.
• If you want to get remarried, you’ll also need a divorce because you can’t legally remarry with a previous marriage in place. It is important to note that not all states allow legal separations. In these states, you’d need a divorce to financially split off from your spouse.
A judgment of divorce ends the marriage; a judgment of separate support does not end the marriage. Although there are differences between them, a separate support judgment can address some of the same issues as a divorce, such as custody, parenting time, visitation, child support, and support for one of the spouses. You file different kinds of papers in court if you are seeking separate support, divorce where your spouse was at fault, or divorce where neither spouse was at fault.

Some of the issues that need to be decided in a divorce judgment are:
• custody of children
• support of children
• parenting time or visitation with the children
• division of assets (for example, pensions, bank accounts or stocks)
• alimony (or support for the spouse)
• division of personal property (that is, who will get which personal property, such as the car or furniture)
• division of real property (what will happen to any real estate including the marital home)
• who gets to live in the marital home
• division of debts (for example, credit cards or electric bills)
• taking back the name you had before you got married
• possibly, an order for protection from abuse.
If these issues are not resolved by agreement of the parties, the judge decides the issues. You get a chance to present evidence that helps her decide.

The Probate and Family Court charges fees for filing and handling certain documents. If you are on welfare or your income is 125% or less of the current poverty threshold, the court is supposed to let you file without paying the filing fee or other basic costs. That is called waiving fees and costs. In order to get the fees and costs waived, you must fill in and file An Affidavit of Indigence. If your fees and costs are waived this way, you will not have to pay the fee that the deputy sheriff or constable charges to serve the court papers – the state pays. Depending on your situation, the court may require additional information and documents from you. The court forms tell you what information is required.

If you are getting divorced, you and your spouse can make a written Separation Agreement that says how matters relating to the end of your marriage will be handled. The agreement should deal with custody of children, parenting time or visits, support of children, your support (alimony), dividing your assets (including pensions), what will happen to the marital home, including who will own the real estate, who will live in the marital home, dividing your debts, and taking back the name you had before you got married. A Separation Agreement is good only if both spouses sign it. It usually is made part of the divorce judgment. If you are being pressured to sign any document, walk away and consult your own attorney. At the divorce hearing, the judge can refuse to accept an agreement if she believes it is unfair under the circumstances, that you did not have the opportunity to talk to a lawyer, or signed as the result of intimidation or duress. A “no fault” divorce is a divorce in which the marriage is broken beyond repair but where neither spouse blames the other. In Utah, the no fault divorce grounds is called “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.” There are two kinds of “irretrievable breakdown” divorces. They are often referred to as “1A’ and “1B”, referring to the section of the law.
1A–Irretrievable Breakdown, both parties participate: By Agreement each party swears in an affidavit (a written statement made under oath that the marriage has irretrievably broken down), and files that affidavit with a Joint Petition for Divorce, and a notarized Separation Agreement.
1B–Irretrievable Breakdown, only one party files: One spouse files a Complaint for Divorce claiming “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.” Whether or not the other party agrees, the plaintiff (the person filing for divorce) can have a hearing no sooner than six months after filing the Complaint. No affidavit or Separation Agreement is required.

Cruel and abusive treatment: This is the most common fault ground for divorce. You need to show that something your spouse knowingly did or didn’t do caused you harm or upset. Acts of physical abuse are cruel and abusive treatment. Sometimes certain forms of mental cruelty may be enough. You have to show it caused you physical harm, for example, your spouse’s drinking and staying out all night caused you headaches and stomach problems. How long it takes to complete a divorce varies with each case.
Utter desertion continued for one year: Your spouse left the marital home voluntarily and without your forcing him to leave. He or she left, has no intention of returning home, and has not lived with you for at least one year before the date of your filing the complaint for divorce.

Adultery: This means sexual intercourse outside the marriage. You will have to prove that your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else. This makes adultery a difficult ground for obtaining a divorce.

Lawyer For Legal Separation In Utah

If you have a question about legal separation or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law LLC (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506