Utah allows divorce on fault-based grounds, as well as the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences. If you want to file for divorce in a Utah court, you must have lived in the state for at least three months. If you have minor children and need the court to decide custody, those children typically must have lived in the state at least six months.
Reasons for Divorce In Utah
Like a majority of states, Utah allows both no-fault and fault-based divorce. In a no-fault divorce, spouses don’t have to prove that the other’s misconduct caused the breakup of the marriage, so these types of case are generally faster and less expensive. Utah provides two kinds of no-fault grounds: “irreconcilable differences” and living apart for at least three years under a separate maintenance order issued by any state. If you and your spouse can’t agree on an amicable divorce, you can file for a fault divorce, where you have to show that your spouse engaged in some type of misconduct that caused the marriage to fail.
There are eight fault-based grounds in Utah, which include:
• inability to perform sexually (at the time of the marriage)
• willful desertion for more than one year
• willful neglect
• habitual drunkenness
• felony conviction
• extreme cruelty, and
• incurable insanity.
Filing for Divorce In Utah County
• Consider hiring an attorney: If your divorce is complicated, an attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure everything is done correctly. You may have difficulty going it alone if you have complex child custody or support issues, if you and your spouse have been married for a while and have a lot of property and joint assets, or if you and your spouse disagree about any of these issues.
• Prepare your forms: Rather than physical forms, Utah has an Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) you can use to prepare the petition and other documents you will need to file for divorce. The online system includes instructions on how to fill out the forms correctly. After you input all the necessary information, the program will personalize the forms for you and prepare all the paperwork you need – the only thing it won’t do is file the forms for you. When you file the forms, you also will be charged a $20 document preparation fee for using the OCAP service.
Sign your divorce forms in the presence of a notary. Once you’ve finished preparing your forms and printed them, you must sign them in front of a notary public. If you’re unsure where to find a notary, check your bank – many banks offer notary services free of charge to their customers. You also may find notaries in private businesses such as check-cashing services, or at the courthouse.
• File your divorce forms: To open your divorce case, you must file your forms in the clerk’s office of the court in the county where you live. The clerk will charge you a $310 filing fee (plus the $20 document preparation fee if you used OCAP). If you can’t afford the fee, you can file a motion asking the judge to waive them. You’ll have to file extensive documentation proving that you are unable to afford the fee, including a detailed description of your income, expenses, debts, and property.
• Serve your spouse: Within 120 days after you’ve filed your initial petition, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the petition, the summons, and all other documents you filed. You can either mail the documents using certified mail, or have the sheriff’s department or a private process serving company provide service for you for a fee. After the other party has been served, you must file a proof of service document. The court won’t act on your petition until all parties to the action have been served.
• Wait for an answer: After you serve your spouse, they have 21 days to file a response to your petition. This time is extending to 30 days if he lives in another state. If your spouse files an answer, both of you must disclose to each other a Financial Declaration. On this form, each party discloses all income, assets, debt, and expenses both to the court and to each other. In addition, you must attach a number of financial documents, including pay stubs, copies of tax returns for the two tax years before the petition was filed, loan applications, financial statements, real estate appraisals, and other documents pertaining to any item listed on the form. If your spouse does not file an answer within the time specified on his summons, you may ask the court for a default judgment. A default judgment means you get everything you’ve asked for, and your spouse doesn’t have an opportunity to protest or tell their side of the story. Instead of a response contesting your petition, your spouse also may file a written stipulation that he agrees to the divorce. If you agree on the terms of the divorce, you can answer the questions in the OCAP Stipulation Interview and prepare agreed documents. However, you can only do this after you’ve filed a petition and served it on your spouse.
Waiving the 30-Day Minimum Waiting Period
In Utah, there is usually a minimum 30-day waiting period before a divorce may be granted. However, this delay may be waived if you can prove the waiver is warranted by extenuating circumstances. To waive the waiting period, you will need to file a Motion to Waive the 30-Day Waiting Period with the help of a divorce attorney. If your spouse objects by filing a Statement Opposing Motion to Waive 30-day Waiting Period in response, you must then file a Reply. Additionally, the judge will not decide anything until either you or your spouse files a Request to Submit for Decision. You may also request a hearing on the matter. While 30 days is the minimum duration of most Utah divorce cases, cases which need litigation to settle strong disagreements can take several years.
What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Answer Your Complaint?
The first step in the divorce process is serving a complaint on your spouse. As the party serving the complaint, you are known as the petitioner, while the recipient spouse is referred to as the respondent. Once the respondent is served, he or she has 21 days to answer the complaint (or 30 days if located outside of Utah). If the respondent simply never files an answer, the courts may enter a default judgment. However, that does not mean your divorce will be automatically granted after 21 days — it simply means the respondent loses the opportunity to contest the claims contained within the original petition.
Is Your Utah Divorce Contested or Uncontested?
If your spouse does not contest or challenge any of the matters addressed by your petition, your divorce will be smoother and will conclude more rapidly than a contested divorce, where disputes arise — and need to be resolved. If you do have a dispute over alimony, child support, child custody, or other aspects of your marriage dissolution, you will be required to participate in mediation. Mediation is a form of conflict resolution which involves a qualified mediator guiding you and your spouse toward a mutually created, mutually acceptable solution. This is very different from litigation, where a judge hands down a decision which you must comply with. The courts or your mediator may grant your request to waive mediation in extraordinary circumstances.
Do You Have Children Who Are Under 18 Years Old?
If you have minor children, the process automatically becomes longer. This is because all divorcing parents in Utah are required to attend a divorce orientation class, as well as a divorce education class. For greater convenience, you can “attend” the orientation class online for a fee of $30 (per person, not per couple). However, you must still attend the education class live and in-person. The fee for the education course is $35 per person, meaning your total cost would be $65. However, there are several discounts which may be available to you depending on the time elapsed between filing your petition and attending the courses. If you’re concerned about your child adjusting, you can enroll him or her in an optional divorce education class designed especially for children. This class is available for children aged nine to 12.
Attending Divorce Education and Mediation in Utah
• Complete the 30-day waiting period: Utah law generally requires a period of 30 days between the date you file the petition and the date the judge signs your final order, regardless of whether you and your spouse agree.
• Take divorce education classes: The state requires couples with minor children to attend a divorce orientation class and a divorce education class before divorce is granted. You must pay a $45 fee to attend the classes, which you can attend online. The fee is discounted if you attend the class in person within 30 days of the day the petition is filed. The orientation course educates parents about divorce and its alternatives, including resources to improve the marriage and resolve custody issues, along with procedural alternatives to divorce. The education course discusses how children experience divorce, ways to communicate, and how parents can help their children, among other issues.
• Comply with mandatory mediation: If your spouse files an answer, Utah law requires you to attend at least one mediation session to attempt to resolve your differences. You and your spouse are responsible for finding a mediator and paying for their services. You can request a list of qualified mediators by calling the Divorce Mediation Help Line. If you do not feel safe attending mediation or feel you won’t be able to fully express yourself due to an extreme level of conflict between you and your spouse, you can apply to have the mediation requirement waived.
• Request a temporary order: If you need the court to resolve certain issues such as use of the marital home or child custody and support while the divorce is pending, you can request a temporary order that will remain into effect until the judge signs your final divorce order.
Going to Trial
• Request a child custody evaluation: If you have outstanding issues regarding child custody and support and you and your spouse cannot agree, you can get a professional evaluator to perform a child custody evaluation and report their findings to the court.
• Either party may request an evaluation, or a judge may order one even if neither party requests it. These evaluations may be expensive. Typically, the cost is split among both parents. The custody evaluator observes and considers many factors related to the best interest of the child, the standard courts use to make child custody decisions. The evaluator reports on the child’s preference, bonds with each parent, the parents’ moral character, and religious compatibility with the child, financial conditions, and other factors.
• Attend the pre-trial conference: Before the court schedules a trial, you must attend a pre-trial conference and make one last attempt to settle your case. If you cannot come to a resolution, you will schedule a trial and determine which issues need to be determined at trial.
• Prepare for your final hearing: After your pre-trial conference, the court will schedule a full trial to make a final decision if you and your spouse still have unresolved issues. Before your hearing, try to go to the courtroom where your hearing will be held and observe another hearing so you have some idea of what to expect. Collect all of your documents and evidence you intend to present and organize them neatly so you can find anything you need without shuffling a lot of papers or taking up time unnecessarily. Have at least four documents of any items you bring, if possible, so each party, the judge, and any witness can have their own copy to look at. Review the court map and make sure you know how to get to your courtroom. If necessary, go to the courthouse early and find it so you can make sure you know where you’re going.
• Attend your final hearing: Appear in court at the designated date and time of your hearing, dressed professionally and conservatively with all documents and witnesses you intend to present. Plan on getting there at least 30 minutes early so you have time to go through security, find your courtroom, and take a seat. You don’t want to be rushed. Leave any cell phones, electronic devices, or other items that might be confiscated at home. When your case is called, stand and identify yourself to the judge. Remain standing while the judge speaks to you. Treat the judge with respect, and don’t interrupt them or speak out of turn. The judge will give each spouse the opportunity to present their story. Don’t interrupt or argue with your spouse while they are talking. If the judge has any questions for you based on what he said, they will ask you once your spouse is finished speaking.
• Get copies of the final decree: You are not legally divorced until the judge signs the decree. Once the decree is finalized, you should get copies for your records. The judge may announce her decision at the conclusion of the hearing, or you may get it later. You should call the clerk’s office if you haven’t received a final written decree 60 days after your hearing. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you have 30 days to file an appeal.
How Long Until My Utah Divorce Can Be Finalized?
There is no single, concrete answer to this question, for one very simple reason: no two families are exactly alike, which means no two divorces are exactly alike. The length and complexity of your divorce will depend heavily on factors such as:
• Whether you are able to waive the minimum waiting period.
• Whether you are able to obtain a default judgment.
• Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested
• Whether you have any minor children.
• Whether your spouse files an appeal after the divorce.
Utah County Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need to get divorced and you live in Utah County, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506