Utah is an equitable distribution or common law state, which is the majority marital property legal system. This means marital property in Utah isn’t automatically assumed to be owned by both spouses and therefore should be divided equally in a divorce. Married couples usually own most, if not all, of their valuable property together. If you want to leave everything to your spouse, as many people do, you don’t need to worry about what belongs to you and what belongs to your spouse. If you’d rather divide your property among several beneficiaries, you’ll need to know just what’s yours to leave. If you want to end your marriage, you probably want it to end as quickly as possible. If your spouse refuses to cooperate because they do not want a divorce or if you are unable to locate your spouse, it adds a layer of complexity to the process.
However, it is still possible to get a divorce even under such circumstances by following these steps. Every state’s laws are different, so it is important to understand the laws in the state where you want to get divorced. Check your state’s residency requirements to file for divorce and decide whether you will file a no-fault divorce or base your divorce on fault grounds if your state allows this option. If you want to get divorced without your spouse’s consent, a no-fault divorce may be an easier option. That’s because, in a no-fault divorce, the divorce papers do not name either of you as the party responsible for ending your marriage. A family law attorney licensed in your state can help you understand your legal options and the divorce process. When you are ready to initiate the process, file your petition for divorce with the Clerk of Court in the county and state where you want to dissolve your marriage. Pay the filing fee to the court when you file your petition. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver. Check with the court to learn more and to apply. Your state’s laws define how you must serve notice of the divorce filing on your spouse, or legally notify your spouse of your filing. Generally, it is not sufficient to hand-deliver the divorce papers. Instead, use certified mail or use the sheriff’s office for service of process. If you do not know where your spouse resides, you can pay a locator service to find them. In some cases, state laws allow for service by publication. Your spouse has a period of time to respond to the divorce papers according to state law. Wait for this period to pass, even if you are certain your spouse will not respond or consent to the filing. If your spouse does not respond at all, you may be able to obtain a default divorce. In that case, the judge will likely side with you, granting the divorce based on your initial filing. If your spouse contests some or all of the provisions in your initial filing, your divorce is a contested divorce. In this situation, the judge hears both sides of the case and rules based on all available information. Protect your rights through the divorce process by being an active participant in the process, even if your spouse is not cooperating. Attend scheduled hearings and court dates and provide responses or answers to your spouse’s filings and court requests, as applicable.
Although the process of obtaining a divorce without spousal consent is sometimes longer and more complex than a simple divorce where both spouses agree and cooperate, it is still possible to terminate your marriage.
Utah Marital Property Laws
During marriage, couples acquire the rights to some of the property and assets, as well as debts, acquired by one or both of them. Marital property doesn’t include things that are considered “separate property” owned by either spouse, for example, property owned before marriage, inheritance, gifts, property specifically excluded by valid prenuptial agreements, and property gained after legally separating. In addition, keep in mind that you are also on the hook still for your separate debts from before marriage. There are two ways states divide marital property: equitable distribution and community property. Utah is an equitable distribution or common law state, which is the majority marital property legal system. However, large numbers of people, especially in the Western U.S., live in community property states. This means marital property in Utah isn’t automatically assumed to be owned by both spouses and therefore should be divided equally in a divorce. In Utah, marital property is divided “equitably” or fairly, which may not be an even 50-50. Usually for longer marriages, it is about 50% to each party. For short-term marriages, the court generally puts people back to their position before the marriage, such as giving people what they had before the marriage and typically what they made during the marriage. Parties can agree on how they want to divide the property outside of court, but a judge will review it to ensure it’s fair.
Common Law Marriage in Utah
Many people in the state of Utah are in long-term, committed relationships that are not officially married. These relationships are known as common-law marriages. While these couples are not legally married, they still face many of the same challenges and obstacles as married couples when their relationship ends including the division of assets and property, as well as child custody issues. Utah does not have common law marriages (in fact, there are only a few states that recognize common-law marriages). Utah does, however, allow a person to petition the court to acknowledge their relationship as a marriage even though they do not have a marriage license. Recognition of the relationship may be requested at the end (or within a year of its end). Also, a petition to recognize the relationship can be filed during the relationship. For Utah to recognize your relationship as a marriage, either partner must prove the following to the court:
• Both partners are of legal age
• Both partners consent (this means both parties agree that their relationship is a marriage)
• Parties have lived together for a considerable amount of time
• Both partners treat one another as spouses
• Both partners present themselves to others as a married couple
• Both partners can enter a marriage without legal complications
Evidence of Consent
As previously mentioned, both partners are required to give consent for the court to recognize their relationship as a marriage. Moreover, they will need to supply evidence that supports their consent. The following list may prove consent:
• A written agreement
• Testimony of people present when the agreement to take on marital duties was made
• Use of joint bank or credit accounts
• Joint purchase and ownership of property
• Filing taxes jointly
Benefits of Utah Court Recognition
There are a handful of reasons it is beneficial to have the court recognize your long-term relationship as a marriage. Married couples enjoy the many benefits of a legal marriage, including tax breaks, inheritance and survivor rights, spousal Social Security benefits, and more. As soon as the court determines that marriage exists, spouses will enjoy and have access to all of the benefits that come with marriage. Additionally, they will have legal divorce-related protections if the couple chooses to separate, including:
• Division of property
• Alimony or spousal support
• Portions of pensions or retirement benefits
• and any other rights, benefits, and protections given to a divorcing couple
Legal Grounds for Divorce
The court may decree dissolution of marriage for any of the following grounds:
• Impotency of the Respondent at the time of the marriage;
• Adultery committed by the Respondent after entering into the marriage;
• Willful desertion of the Petitioner by the Respondent for more than one year;
• Willful neglect of the Respondent to provide for the Petitioner the common necessities of life;
• Habitual drunkenness of the Respondent;
• Conviction of the Respondent for a felony;
• Cruel treatment of the Petitioner by the Respondent to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress to the Petitioner;
• Irreconcilable differences of the marriage;
• Incurable insanity; or
• The spouses have lived separately under a decree of separate maintenance of any state for three consecutive years without cohabitation.
Utah Annulment Lawyer
The following are prohibited and void marriages and they may be annulled for these causes:
• Marriages between parents and children;
• Marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree;
• Marriages between brothers and sisters (half or whole);
• Marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews;
• Marriages between first cousins (unless both parties are 65 years of age or older, or if both parties are 55 years of age or older, upon a finding by the court that either party is unable to reproduce);
• Marriages between any persons related to each other within and not including fifth degree of consanguinity;
• When there is a husband or wife living, from whom the person marrying has not been divorced;
• Either party is at least 16, but under 18 years of age and has not obtained parental consent;
• Either party is under 16 years of age at the time the parties attempt to enter into the marriage, unless the party is 15 years of age and has obtained judicial consent;
• Marriage between persons of the same sex; and
• Re-marriage to a different spouse before the divorce decree becomes absolute, or in the case of an appeal, before the affirmance of the decree.
When there is doubt regarding the validity of a marriage, either party may demand its avoidance or affirmance in a court where either party is domiciled. However, when one of the parties was under the age of consent at the time of the marriage, the other party of proper age may not have cause against the party under age. The court shall either declare the marriage valid or annulled. In all dissolution and separate maintenance actions, the court and judge have jurisdiction over the distribution of property. Utah is an equitable distribution state. Therefore, marital property shall be distributed fairly and equitably.
The court shall include the following in every decree of divorce:
• An order specifying which party is responsible for the payment of joint debts, obligations, or liabilities of the parties contracted or incurred during marriage;
• An order requiring the parties to notify respective creditors or obliges, regarding the court’s division of debts, obligations, or liabilities and regarding the parties’ separate current addresses;
• Provisions for the enforcement of these orders; and
• Provisions for income withholding.
When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in dividing the marital property. If one spouse’s earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in dividing the marital property.
Alimony and Support Attorney
In all dissolution and separate maintenance actions, the court and judge have jurisdiction over the payment of alimony. When determining alimony, the court shall consider, at a minimum, the following factors:
• The financial condition and needs of the requesting spouse;
• The requesting spouse’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
• The ability of the paying spouse to provide support;
• The length of the marriage;
• Whether the requesting spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
• Whether the requesting spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the paying spouse; and
• Whether the requesting spouse directly contributed to any increase in the paying spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the paying spouse or allowing the paying spouse to attend school during the marriage.
The court may consider the fault of the parties when making its determination regarding alimony. When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony. If one spouse’s earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in awarding alimony. In determining alimony when a marriage of short duration dissolves, and no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider restoring each party to the condition which existed at the time of the marriage. Alimony may not be ordered for a duration longer than the number of years that the marriage existed unless, at any time prior to termination of alimony, the court finds extenuating circumstances that justify the payment of alimony for a longer period of time. Unless otherwise stated in the divorce decree, any order for payment of alimony to a former spouse automatically ends upon the remarriage or death of that former spouse, unless the remarriage is annulled and found to be void. In that case, alimony shall resume, provided that the paying spouse was made a party to the action of annulment and his/her rights have been determined. Any order for payment of alimony to a former spouse terminates upon establishment by the paying party that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law 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