Utah Code 78A-6-507

Utah Code 78A-6-507

Grounds For Termination Of Parental Rights–Findings Regarding Reasonable Efforts

1. Subject to the protections and requirements of Section 78A-6-503 , and if the court finds strictly necessary, the court may terminate all parental rights with respect to a parent if the court finds any one of the following:
a) that the parent has abandoned the child;
b) that the parent has neglected or abused the child;
c) that the parent is unfit or incompetent;
d) i. that the child is being cared for in an out-of-home placement under the supervision of the court or the division;

Ii.that the parent has substantially neglected, willfully refused, or has been unable or unwilling to remedy the circumstances that cause the child to be in an out-of-home placement;  and
iii. that there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of exercising proper and effective parental care in the near future;
e) failure of parental adjustment, as defined in this chapter;
f) that only token efforts have been made by the parent:
i. to support or communicate with the child;
ii. to prevent neglect of the child;
iii. to eliminate the risk of serious harm to the child;  or
iv. to avoid being an unfit parent;
g) i. that the parent has voluntarily relinquished the parent’s parental rights to the child;  and

Ii.that termination is in the child’s best interest;
h) that, after a period of trial during which the child was returned to live in the child’s own home, the parent substantially and continuously or repeatedly refused or failed to give the child proper parental care and protection;  or
i) the terms and conditions of safe relinquishment of a newborn child have been complied with, pursuant to Title 62A, Chapter 4a, Part 8, Safe Relinquishment of a Newborn Child.
2. The court may not terminate the parental rights of a parent because the parent has failed to complete the requirements of a child and family plan.
3. (a) Except as provided in Subsection (3)(b), in any case in which the court has directed the division to provide reunification services to a parent, the court must find that the division made reasonable efforts to provide those services before the court may terminate the parent’s rights under Subsection (1)(b), (c), (d), (e), (f), or (h).
(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (3)(a), the court is not required to make the finding under Subsection (3)(a) before terminating a parent’s rights:

I.under Subsection (1)(b), if the court finds that the abuse or neglect occurred subsequent to adjudication;  or

Ii.if reasonable efforts to provide the services described in Subsection (3)(a) are not required under federal law, and federal law is not inconsistent with Utah law.

The phrase “termination of parental rights” can be the most frightening words a parent can hear. Fears of losing a child to “the system” can push a parent to work on improving their situation for the child’s benefit. However, to some, termination brings relief, as the parent knows that they can’t provide for the child but may have been unable to reach out for help. Some parents voluntarily terminate their parental interest as they feel it’s best for the child. The parental rights termination procedure is perhaps one of the strongest legal mechanisms available to protect children in need. In many cases, a termination proceeding is a necessary precursor to the adoption of the child. In some states and cases, it’s possible to reinstate parental rights after termination or consenting to adoption. The exact grounds for terminating parental rights vary from state to state. The following list summarizes the major grounds for terminating a parent’s rights to his or her child.

Common Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights

Child Abuse Factors

• Severe or chronic physical abuse of the child.
• Any sexual abuse of the child.
• Severe psychological abuse or torture of the child.
• Extreme emotional damage to the child inflicted by the parent.
• Child neglect by failing to provide shelter, food, or other needed care as is required by parental obligations.
• Abuse or neglect of other children in the same household.
• Abandonment of the child or extreme parental disinterest.
• Felony conviction of the parent for a violent crime against the child or another family member.
• The child would be at risk if returned to the parent’s home.

Parental Factors

• Long-term mental illness of the parent.
• Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity of the parent.
• Failure to support the child.
• Failure to maintain contact with the child.
• Failure to provide education.
• Felony conviction of the parent when the term of imprisonment is long enough to negatively impact the child and the only other source of care for the child is foster care.
• Failure of the parent to comply with a court ordered plan.
• Inducing the child to commit a crime or crimes.
• Unreasonable withholding of consent to adoption by the non-custodial parent.
• The identity or location of the father is unknown after a reasonable attempt to determine or find him.
• The putative or presumptive father is not the child’s biological father.
• Giving birth to three or more drug affected infants.
• Other egregious conduct or heinous or abhorrent behavior by the parent either to the child or others in a way that affects the child.
• Voluntary relinquishment of rights by the parent.
• Failure of reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.
Additional Factors
• The child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, and the parent is still not ready for reunification.
• Risk of substantial harm to the child.
• The child’s need for continuity and care.
• The child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.
• A newborn child is addicted to alcohol or drugs.
• The child has developed a strong and healthy relationship with his or her foster or other substitute family.
• The preference of the child.

Best Interests of the Child

Courts make a variety of decisions that affect children, including placement and custody determinations, safety and permanency planning, and proceedings for termination of parental rights. Whenever a court makes such a determination, it must weigh whether its decision will be in the “best interests” of the child. Most states consider a child’s best interests in termination proceedings. In some states, statutes use general language mandating that the child’s health and safety be paramount in all proceedings, while other states’ legislation lists specific factors that must be considered, such as the child’s age; the physical, mental, emotional and moral well-being; cultural and attachment issues; and the child’s reasonable preferences.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Typically, parents voluntarily terminate their rights when they wish to give the child up for adoption. Termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary. When it comes to voluntary termination of parental rights, the process is quite difficult because children are generally seen to have a right to a parental relationship and, particularly, a right to receive financial support and care from both parents. Two common situations that often lead to requests to terminate parental rights include a parent who wishes to terminate his/her child support or financial obligation for the child; or a parent who desires to have the other parent completely out of their life.

Reinstatement of Parental Rights

When a court orders the termination of parental rights, the legal relationship between a parent and child ceases to exist. It is very rare and only occurs in especially serious cases, such as those involving child abuse or severe child neglect. And even though a parent may petition the court to voluntarily give up his or her parental rights, the main consideration is always the child’s best interests. Laws allowing reinstatement were drafted generally in response to older children who were aging out of foster care and wanted to re-establish family ties. Usually, reinstatement is available only on the condition that the child has not been permanently placed with a foster home within a given period of time. Consider meeting with a family law attorney in your area if you have additional questions about reinstatement of parental rights or would like to initiate the process. Remember, a person whose parental rights have been terminated also loses custody or visitation rights with the child. If the voluntary termination occurred through a state child welfare agency, some states do provide for limited post-termination access to the child by the former parent. The family code of each state governs the rules and procedures for termination and post-termination access, if any. To understand how the laws of your state apply to your situation, contact a qualified family law attorney in your area.
<2>Findings Regarding Reasonable Efforts

The reasonable efforts/no reasonable efforts findings are the most powerful tools given to the courts by the federal legislation. These findings enable the court to determine whether the agency has done its job to prevent removal, assist in reunifying families, and achieve timely permanency for the child. The trial judge has a difficult task since there is no definition of “reasonable efforts” and the services available in each community are different and may change over time. Nevertheless, the courts are obliged to make several “reasonable efforts” findings throughout the pendency of each child welfare case in which a child has been removed from parental care. Unfortunately, the reasonable efforts tool to prevent removal has not been litigated by our courts. Less than 1 percent of appellate case law deals with the reasonable efforts to prevent removal issue. That means that attorneys are not challenging the “reasonable efforts” findings judges are making at the initial hearing. The issue is not being litigated. On the other hand, over 98 percent of appellate case law deals with the reasonable efforts issue after a court have terminated parental rights. In those appeals, the parents’ attorney argues that the agency did not provide reasonable services to promote reunification of the family. The issue of reasonable efforts to prevent removal is not litigated in these appeals. It is obvious that “reasonable efforts” litigation occurs at the conclusion of the case, not at the beginning.

The structure and procedures within the court system make it next to impossible for the “reasonable efforts to prevent removal” issue to be litigated at the initial hearing. Parents who appear at the initial hearing without an attorney do not understand the legal issues. They certainly do not understand that the agency has a duty to provide services (reasonable efforts) to prevent removal. They have often not been appointed or obtained counsel before that hearing. Attorneys must be present to represent parents at the initial hearing because parents are not able to raise the complex issue of reasonable efforts to prevent removal. That is a sophisticated legal issue that only a trained attorney can address. And yet attorneys are often appointed at or just before the initial hearing. That is when they receive the petition and supporting papers that have been filed on behalf of the child. As a result of the timing of the appointment, they have insufficient time to prepare for the hearing and thus are unable to test the “reasonable efforts” issue. Another problem is that most judges do not carefully address the reasonable efforts issue. They do not question the social worker who made the removal and do not make a record of the facts they rely upon when making a “reasonable efforts” finding. In some jurisdictions, judges simply check a box indicating reasonable efforts were made by the social worker. Many judges do not believe they should be telling the social service agency what they should be doing. Moreover, many judges do not want to make a “no reasonable efforts” finding. They do not want to take money away from an already financially strapped agency. Ironically, judges do not seem to resist making findings in criminal cases that police officers did not follow the law. These rulings can result in release of the defendant when judges grant motions to suppress evidence or confessions by the defendant, but making similar findings in child welfare cases indicating that the social worker did not do her job correctly in providing adequate services to prevent removal do not appear in the appellate case law.

Termination of Parental Rights Lawyer

When you need legal help with parental rights in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (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

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At Ascent Law we’ve received a lot of reviews. You can read out testimonials here. But now let’s talk about you. You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works. While divorce is generally an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, the following articles and legal resources are tailored toward helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible.

Legal Requirements to Divorce

You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you or your spouses are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty service members from civil lawsuits. For more, read the articles on residency, eligibility for divorce, and military divorces here.

Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions

To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below. If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there’s child custody and child support papers to complete. Find articles explaining the types of divorces, the typical timeline, and even how to change your name in this section. You can complete divorce forms on your own, at a self-help legal clinic, or with a lawyer. As you don’t want to unnecessarily waive your marital property, spousal support, or other rights, seeking legal advice is a good idea, especially if you have many assets.

Serving Divorce Papers

Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to serve them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.

Answering a Divorce Petition

Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to answer within the deadline set by state law. In responding, you can fill out the court forms yourself, at a legal clinic, or with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer. If there are disagreements about what to do with children or property, considering hiring an attorney.

Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case

Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Many states require mediation to help reach a property settlement and a parenting plan everyone can follow. Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist to help you settle your divorce, read more by clicking the links below.

Trial and Appeals

If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment. This section provides articles on these topics as well.

Divorce Process

Divorce doesn’t happen overnight. In most states, there is a series of steps you must take to dissolve your marriage. Read on to learn what to expect during the divorce process.

Separation

Every marriage has its ups and downs. If you and your spouse feel like you need a break from each other, but reconciliation is still a possibility, you can choose to live apart during a trial separation. Some couples will attend therapy during the trial separation to try and resolve their marital problems. Court’s don’t get involved with trial separations, so typically both spouses have to be on board with the decision to separate. Generally speaking, during a short trial separation, your state’s marital property laws still apply meaning anything you or your spouse acquire during this trial period will still be considered marital property and belong to both spouses. If the trial separation is going to last for more than a month, couples may want to put the terms of the separation into an informal agreement, so there’s no confusion and the expectations are spelled out clearly. For example, you can state the amount of time you plan to be apart, how you’ll manage parental responsibilities, who will pay the bills, when each parent will see the children (if any), whether you’ll continue sharing a bank account, how you’ll manage the family home, and anything else that’s important to you.

Legal Separation

In some states, couples who can’t reconcile, but don’t want to file for divorce can ask the court for a legal separation. Legal separation may be appropriate in marriages where the couple’s religion prohibits divorce, where a couple needs to stay married for health care or tax purposes, or, in some cases, to share Social Security benefits. Not all states offer legal separation, but in the states that do, the process is very similar to traditional divorce, except that in the end, you’re still legally married. Both spouses must agree to file for a separation. If either spouse asks for a divorce, the court will proceed with a traditional divorce. If your state doesn’t offer legal separation, you may still be able to permanently separate by entering into a formal, written settlement agreement with your spouse that covers how you will handle any and all marital issues that apply to your case, such as:
• child custody and support,
• alimony (spousal support), and
• property and debt division.
If you’re unsure whether your state offers legal separation or whether it’s the right approach for you case, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney near you.

Filing a Divorce Petition

If you’ve decided that divorce is the right choice for you, you’ll need to initiate the legal process to get your divorce case started. Before you file any paperwork, check with the court to determine if your state requires you and your spouse to live separately before filing. If you file too early, you risk the court rejecting your case, and you’ll have to start over. The spouse requesting the divorce must a file divorce petition (sometimes called a complaint for dissolution of marriage) with the local court in order to start the divorce case. Typically, the petition will include the following:
• each spouse’s personal information (name, address, social security number)
• whether the couple has minor children, and if so, each child’s information
• the legal grounds for the divorce, and
• the filing spouse’s requests for property division, child custody, child support, and/or alimony.

Once you have the petition completed, you’ll need to bring it to your local court, along with any other required documents, and pay the filing fee. If you can’t afford to pay, you can complete a fee waiver request. If the judge approves your request, you won’t have to pay the court’s filing fee.

Utah Grounds for Divorce

There are two types of divorce: no-fault and fault-based. No-fault divorce means that the filing spouse asks for a divorce without alleging that the other spouse did something wrong. Instead, the spouse tells the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or that the couple suffers irreconcilable differences. In some states, you can request a divorce based on separation for a certain period of time. While this is no the classic “no-fault” ground, it is similar in that it doesn’t require either spouse to allege the other is at fault for the divorce. All states offer a no-fault divorce (or divorce based on separation). No-fault divorces are less expensive and time-consuming than fault divorces. Some states still allow spouses to file for fault-based divorce. In a fault divorce, a spouse will alleges in the divorce complaint that the other spouse’s misconduct caused the breakup. Some spouses ask for a fault divorce to feel vindicated for the other spouse’s wrongdoing. Others ask for a fault divorce to try and influence the judge’s property and spousal support decisions. In the states that permit fault divorce, the most common grounds are adultery, alcohol or drug abuse, abandonment, and physical abuse. Fault divorces require the filing spouse to prove the allegations in court, so the process tends to take much longer and cost more than a no-fault divorce. If you’re considering a fault divorce, you should speak to a local attorney to determine if you qualify and whether the added expense is worth it in your case.

Serving the Divorce Petition

Regardless of the type of divorce you choose, after you file your documents with the court, you must serve (deliver) a copy of the paperwork to your spouse. You can ask your local sheriff’s department to give the documents to your spouse, or you can hire a private process server to do it for a fee. If you can’t find your spouse, you can ask the judge for permission to publish the divorce information in a local newspaper. Service is important because it ensures that both spouses have time to review and respond to the complaint before the court acts. Nearly every state has a “waiting period” that the court must allow to pass before the judge can finalize the divorce which is the state’s way of allowing the couple time to either reconcile or negotiate the terms of the divorce. The filing spouse must complete and provide proof of service to the court before the waiting period begins to run.

Default Divorce

After you deliver the paperwork to your spouse, the law generally allows the responding spouse 21-28 days to answer. If your spouse fails to respond by the deadline, you can ask the court to issue a default judgment in your favor. A default divorce means that the court will award you everything you asked for in your complaint. If there are minor children involved, the judge will ensure that your requests in the complaint are in the children’s best interests before issuing an order. Once the judge signs the final documents and issues a divorce decree, your marriage is over.

Response or filing an Answer

If your spouse responds to the complaint, the court must proceed with the traditional divorce process. The responding spouse (respondent) can submit an “answer” to the complaint, which agrees or disagrees with the filing spouse’s (petitioner’s) allegations, or the respondent can file a counter-complaint, alleging new facts for the judge to consider. Like with the original divorce complaint, the respondent must serve a copy of the answer to the petitioner and then provide proof of service to the court.

A Temporary Hearing

Even in cases where divorcing spouses agree on everything in their case, the process can still take time. Depending on where you live, some states require couples to live separately for up to a year before the court can finalize a divorce. Other states have waiting periods in excess of 6 months. Because of this, the court has the power to hold temporary hearings to resolve any essential issues while the divorce is pending.
Common reasons for temporary hearings may include:
• temporary custody and parenting time arrangements
• child support
• domestic violence restraining orders
• allocation of marital expenses during the divorce process
• restrictions on the sale or use of joint assets, like bank accounts and marital homes, and
• spousal support.

Getting A Divorce Settlement Agreement

If you and your spouse agree on all your divorce-related issues, you should put your terms in a settlement agreement. A divorce settlement agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines how the couple resolved divorce-related issues. The couple will submit the signed settlement agreement to the judge and if it meets the state’s requirements for fairness to both spouses, the judge will sign it and incorporate it into the final divorce judgement.

A settlement agreement allows the couple to maintain control over the most important aspects of their divorce, including:
• child custody and visitation
• child support
• spousal support
• property division and allocation of debts, and
• any other important issues.

Settlement or Trial

Contrary to what you may see in mainstream media, most couples can work through their issues and agree on the divorce terms without a drawn-out trial. Some couples agree on everything right away and hire attorneys just to memorialize the agreement for them to present to the judge. However, if you need a little help communicating and working through unresolved issues with your spouse, you can consider divorce mediation. Mediation is a voluntary (in most cases) process where the couple meets with a neutral third-party, who will facilitate the negotiations between the couple. If the couple agrees on their issues, the mediator will draft the settlement agreement for both spouses to sign. Mediation is also popular because if there are unresolved issues after the session, the couple can ask the court to decide those limited issues, so mediation can be a valuable service even if the couples doesn’t resolve every issue their case. Mediators don’t have the power to make binding decisions, so divorcing couples often feel more powerful after negotiating their settlement together. Settling your divorce may not be easy, but if you go into negotiations understanding that you and your spouse will both need to sacrifice a little to meet in the middle, you will spend significantly less time and money on your divorce than if you go to trial. For some couples, negotiation is impossible, and a divorce trial is necessary. A trial means that there are unresolved issues between the spouses. Typically, the spouses and their lawyers will attend multiple court hearings to present witnesses, evidence, and testimony to the judge, and the judge will decide how to handle the case.

If there’s a custody dispute, a court may require the family to complete a custody evaluation. A custody evaluator will conduct an investigation by interviewing the parents, children, other relatives, teachers, caregivers, and/or therapists in order to prepare a recommendation on how much time the child should live with each parent. This process is expensive, invasive, and can take several months to a year to complete. A divorce trial can cost many thousands of dollars, and you may be unhappy with the end result, so it’s important to think long and hard before you walk away from your settlement negotiations with your spouse.

Utah Divorce Lawyer

When you need legal help with a legal separation or divorce in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (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

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Although divorce is common throughout the United States, the divorce process varies depending on the couple’s situation. Short-term marriages without children or property typically result in a less complex and time-consuming divorce than long-term marriages with significant property entanglements, marital debt, and minor children. Additionally, divorcing couples who work together to negotiate the terms of the divorce (child custody, child support, property division, debt allocation, and spousal support) will experience a less expensive and less stressful divorce than couples who can’t agree or refuse to work together.

Filing the Divorce Petition

Whether both spouses agree to the divorce or not, before any couple can begin the divorce process, one spouse must file a legal petition asking the court to terminate the marriage. The filing spouse must include the following information:
• a statement which informs the court that at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce
• a legal reason—or grounds—for the divorce, and
• any other statutory information that your state requires.
Residency requirements vary depending on where you live. States usually require at least one spouse to live in the state anywhere from 3 months to 12 months, and in the county where the spouse files at least 10 days to 6 months before filing the petition. Divorcing spouses must meet the state’s residency requirement before the court can accept the case. Grounds for divorce vary from state-to-state. However, all states offer divorcing couples the option to file a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce is a streamlined process that allows spouses to file a divorce petition without listing a specific reason or placing blame on either spouse. If your spouse committed marital misconduct or caused the breakup, some states allow parties to claim fault for the divorce, like adultery or neglect. If you’re unsure whether you should file a no-fault or fault divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney in your state for guidance.

Moving The Court for Temporary Orders

Courts understand that the waiting period for divorce may not be possible for all couples. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent that is raising your children and dependent on your spouse for financial support, waiting for 6-months for the judge to finalize your divorce probably seems impossible. When you file for divorce, the court allows you to ask the court for temporary court orders for child custody, child support, and spousal support. If you request a temporary order, the court will hold a hearing and request information from each spouse before deciding how to rule on the application. The judge will usually grant the temporary order quickly, and it will remain valid until the court orders otherwise or until the judge finalizes the divorce. Other temporary orders may include a request for status quo payments or temporary property restraining orders. Status quo orders typically require the breadwinner to continue paying marital debts throughout the divorce process. Temporary property restraining orders protect the marital estate from either spouse selling, giving away, or otherwise disposing of marital property during the divorce process. Restraining orders are usually mutual, meaning both spouses must follow it or risk being penalized by the court. If you need a temporary order but didn’t file your request at the time you filed for divorce, you’ll need to apply for temporary orders as quickly as possible. When you file for divorce, the court allows you to ask the court for temporary court orders for child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Serve Your Spouse and Wait for a Response

After you file the petition for divorce and request for temporary orders, you need to provide a copy of the paperwork to your spouse and file proof of service with the court. Proof of service is a document that tells the court that you met the statutory requirements for giving a copy of the petition to your spouse. If you don’t properly serve your spouse, or if you neglect to file a proof of service with the court, the judge will be unable to proceed with your divorce case. Service of process can be easy, especially if your spouse agrees with the divorce and is willing to sign an acknowledgment of service. However, some spouses, especially ones that want to stay married or make the process complicated, can be evasive or try anything to frustrate the process. The easiest way to ensure proper service is for the filing spouse to hire a professional who is licensed and experienced in delivering legal documents to difficult parties. The cost is usually minimal and can help prevent a delay in your case. If your spouse retained an attorney, you could arrange to have the paperwork delivered to the attorney’s office.

The party who receives the paperwork (usually titled “defendant” or “respondent”) must file an answer or reply to the divorce petition within a prescribed amount of time. Failure to respond could result in a “default” judgment against the non-responding spouse, which can be complicated and expensive to reverse. The responding party has the option to dispute the grounds for divorce (if a fault divorce), the allegations in the petition, or assert any disagreements as to property, support, custody, or any other divorce-related issues.

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Mediation to Negotiate a Settlement

In cases where the parties have differing opinions on important topics, like child custody, support, or property division, both spouses will need to work together to reach an agreement. Sometimes the court will schedule a settlement conference, which is where the parties and their attorneys will meet to discuss the status of the case. The court may schedule mediation, which is where a neutral third-party will help facilitate discussion between the spouses in hopes to resolve lingering issues. Some states require participation in mediation, while others do not. However, mediation often saves significant time and money during the divorce process, so it’s often a good route for many divorcing couples.

Divorce Trial

Sometimes negotiations fail despite each spouse’s best efforts. If there are still issues that remain unresolved after mediation and other talks, the parties will need to ask the court for help, which means going to trial. A divorce trial is costly and time-consuming, plus it takes all the power away from the spouses and puts it in the hands of the judge. Negotiations and mediation sessions allow the couple to maintain control and have more predictable results than a divorce trial, so it’s best to avoid a trial if possible.

Finalizing the Judgment

Whether you and your spouse negotiated throughout the divorce process, or a judge decided the significant issues for you, the final step of divorce comes when the judge signs the judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce (or “order of dissolution”) ends the marriage and spells out the specifics about how the couple will allocate custodial responsibility and parenting time, child and spousal support, and how the couple will divide assets and debts. If the parties negotiated a settlement, the filing spouse’s attorney typically drafts the judgment. However, if the couple went through a divorce trial, the judge will issue the final order.

Quick Divorce

In many states, an expedited divorce procedure is available to couples who haven’t been married for very long (usually five years or less), don’t own much property, don’t have children, and don’t have significant joint debts. Both spouses need to agree to the divorce, and must file court papers jointly. A summary (sometimes called “simplified”) divorce involves a lot less paperwork than other types of divorce; a few forms are often all it takes. For this reason, summary divorces are easy to do without the help of a lawyer.

Uncontested Divorce

In terms of dealing with the court process, the path that normally generates the least amount of stress is an uncontested divorce. That’s one in which you and your spouse settle up-front all your differences on issues such as custody and visitation (parenting time), child support, alimony, and division of property. You’ll then incorporate the terms of your settlement in a written “property settlement agreement” (sometimes called a “separation agreement”). Once your case is settled, you can file for divorce with the court. Courts almost invariably fast-track these types of cases, so you can get divorced in a relatively short period of time. In some states, you may not even have to make a court appearance, but rather can file an affidavit (sworn statement) with the court clerk.

Default Divorce

A default divorce occurs when you’ve filed for divorce, and your spouse doesn’t respond. You’d likely see this, for example, if your spouse has left for parts unknown and can’t be found. Assuming you’ve complied with the court’s rules and regulations, a judge can grant the divorce despite the fact your spouse hasn’t participated in the court proceedings. On its face, this may seem like the ideal situation. No one is there to contest what you’re asking the court to give you. But be aware that there are pro and cons to a default divorce.

Contested Divorce

If you and your spouse are at loggerheads over one or more marital issues, to the point that you can’t come to an agreement, then it will be up to a judge to decide those issues for you. This is what’s meant by a contested divorce. Contested divorces are stressful, time-consuming, and expensive (think mounting attorneys’ fees). You’ll go through a lengthy process of exchanging financial and other relevant information, mandatory settlement negotiations, and court hearings for temporary relief, such as interim alimony, for example, if warranted. And if you can’t resolve the case after all that, there will be a court trial. The burdens of a contested divorce are why the vast majority of divorce cases ultimately settle at some point before trial.

Fault and No-Fault Divorce

This refers to the grounds (reasons) on which you’re basing the divorce. Your state’s laws will set out the permissible grounds for divorce. In the not-too-distant past, people who wanted to dissolve their marriage had to show that the other spouse was guilty of wrongdoing, such as adultery or cruelty. Needless to say, accusing your spouse of misconduct could make for quite a contentious divorce. Now, however, all states offer some form of “no-fault” divorce. In a no-fault divorce, instead of proving that a spouse is to blame for the marriage failing, you merely state that you and your spouse have “irreconcilable differences,” or have suffered an “irremediable breakdown” of your relationship.

Mediated Divorce

Before filing for divorce, options are available to you if you need assistance in trying to resolve your differences. These are referred to as “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) methods. One of those is divorce mediation. Here, a trained neutral third party (the mediator), sits down with you and your spouse to try to help you resolve all of the issues in your divorce. It’s not the mediator’s job to make decisions for you. Rather, mediators offer guidance and help you communicate with each other until; hopefully, you reach a meeting of the minds. A successful mediation usually ends with the preparation of a property settlement agreement.

Collaborative Divorce

Another ADR option is “collaborative divorce”. This entails working with lawyers who are specially trained in this method of settling divorces. The spouses hire their own lawyers, each of whom is obligated to work cooperatively, with the sole purpose of trying to settle your case. Each spouse agrees to disclose all the information that’s necessary for fair negotiations, and to meet with each other and both lawyers, as often as necessary, to attempt to reach a settlement. You all must agree that if your divorce doesn’t settle through the collaborative process, your original attorneys will withdraw and you’ll have to hire different attorneys to take your case to court. This is done to ensure that all participants, including the attorneys, are acting in good faith, with nothing to gain from veering away from the goal of settlement.

Divorce Arbitration

In states that allow it, a third form of ADR is “divorce arbitration”. This option is the most similar to a trial, because the arbitrator (usually an attorney or a retired judge) will make a decision on your marital issues, after being presented with the facts of your case and reviewing the documentation you would ordinarily produce at trial. The benefits of arbitration are that it’s typically conducted in an informal and thus less intimidating setting than a courthouse (usually the arbitrator’s office) and, as with the other forms of ADR, allows you the flexibility of picking meeting times that fit your schedules. This makes it more cost-effective than having to make court appearances, which often involve sitting around racking up attorneys’ fees while waiting for a judge to become available.

Utah Divorce Lawyer

When you need to get divorced in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (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

Ascent Law LLC

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