If you’re planning to get divorced, you’d probably prefer to do so quickly. After all, no one wants the (often costly) process to drag on, especially if you’re trying to step out of a loveless or toxic marriage or even one that’s ending amicably. But the duration to get served after divorce depends on a few things, including where you live, whether or not both parties agree to all the terms, and how fast the judge can get around to the paperwork. An uncontested divorce, or a divorce in which all major issues are resolved before going to trial, will take substantially less time than a ‘contested divorce.” Typically, it takes less than a year. However, the speed a judge will sign divorce papers will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and state to state. Nearly every state has its own set of divorce requirements. From paperwork processing times to mandatory separation and waiting periods, your locale will affect the dissolution of your marriage. “In New Jersey, for example, divorces are not supposed to take more than a year… but some take much longer depending on the issues involved and the local court’s backlog,” As such, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your states divorce laws. It will take one to two weeks for a lawyer to draw up a petition for divorce. 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.
Asking 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.
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.
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. When people decide to get a divorce, they usually don’t know what to expect. After all, divorce is a complicated legal process, and it can be full of unpleasant surprises and frustrating delays. It’s always helpful to review a legal divorce timeline to give you a general understanding of what’s likely to happen so you can help you feel more comfortable at an uncomfortable time. The following chronology gives a general idea of how an average divorce will proceed, although your divorce may not follow the exact timeline below because of specific issues between you and your spouse or because of specific laws in your state.
Grounds for Divorce
Divorce grounds are the legal reasons on which you’re basing your request that the court end your marriage. Grounds fall into two categories: fault-based and no-fault. Fault-based grounds are those that require you to prove that your spouse did something wrong, which caused the divorce. Some typical grounds in this category are adultery, extreme cruelty (physical or mental), and desertion. Today, there aren’t many benefits to filing for a fault-based divorce. However, if your state views fault as a factor in determining alimony or division of marital property, it’s something to consider. No-fault divorce is primarily based on “irreconcilable differences” or the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In short, these basically mean that you and your spouse can’t get along anymore, and there’s no reasonable prospect that you’ll reconcile. No-fault has become the avenue of choice in most divorces. There are various reasons for this. Because you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong, there’s typically less anxiety and tension during the divorce process. This is a big benefit, especially if there are children involved. Also, when you don’t have to fight about fault, the divorce may move more quickly. And, less arguing almost always translates into lower legal fees.
Alimony in a Divorce
The laws regarding alimony, which is also known as “spousal support” or “maintenance,” have evolved over the years. The current trend is away from lifetime or permanent alimony, which is now typically reserved only for long-term marriages, generally considered to be anywhere from 10 to 20 or more years, depending on your state. Another type of short-term spousal support is “reimbursement” alimony, often awarded in short marriages where one spouse contributed to the other’s pursuit of a college or graduate school degree. The theory is that contributing spouses deserve to be repaid for the effort and costs they expended in furthering the other spouse’s education.
Some common factors a court considers when awarding alimony are:
• a spouse’s actual need, and the other spouse’s ability to pay
• the length of the marriage
• each spouse’s age and health (both physical and emotional)
• each spouse’s earning capacity and level of education
• parental responsibilities for the children
• the division of marital property between the spouses, and
• income available to either spouse through investment of that spouse’s assets.
Preparing Your Divorce
The Utah Courts site offers online forms for completing an uncontested divorce available here and or in hard copy at your local courthouse. The following documents must be filed with your divorce paperwork:
• Civil Coversheet
• Petition for Divorce
• Vital Statistics Form/Certificate of Dissolution
• Acceptance of Service
• Affidavit of Jurisdiction and Grounds
• Military Service Declaration and Order
• Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law
• Decree of Divorce
If you and your spouse have children together under the age of 18, then the following forms must be filed as well:
• Child Support Worksheet
• Affidavit of Income and Compliance with Child Support Guidelines
• Financial Declarations, and
• Child Support Locator.
When you need a divorce lawyer in Utah, 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