Although divorce is common throughout Utah, 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. If you are going through a divorce, talk to a divorce attorney to figure out your options.
Here’s a few reasons why you need to reconsider your divorce:
• Think of the children: Children are emotionally unstable creatures who tend to get petrified when their families undergo even the tiniest of changes to the family hierarchy. There is a huge risk to their emotional, physiological and psychological development. Some divorces are so poorly handled that the entire fallout of the disastrous marriage crosses over to the children, scarring them completely. Usually families empty their financial coffers after losing it all in courts and legal fees and this can hamper the child’s opportunities of going to a good college in the future.
• Divorce leaves you physically unwell: The one person in your life who was supposed to be there for you in both the good and the bad has left. The love which was shared between the two spouses has dwindled and in its place grows hatred, anger and spite. As humans, we tend to have an emotional void which gets filled up with either love or hate. The aftermath of a divorce fills one with dread, regret and depression which severely tends to affect their health. Indeed studies have shown that divorce tends to completely disrupt your life from minute details such as your sleeping habits to your brain’s physiological wellbeing.
• It costs more to get unmarried than to get married: There are a myriad of costs associated with a divorce proceeding, these include court fees, costs for any parental classes the court might have assigned to you, mediation costs and the most hefty one, your attorney’s fees. Other assets also come into play especially if there is real estate involved everything from the financing of your house down to the title deeds will have to be reevaluated, not to mention the entirely different set of attorneys you will have to consult with in order to facilitate smooth transactions. There is the very high possibility of going completely bankrupt if you manage your finances poorly. Most couples are unaware of the hidden costs that seem to pop out of nowhere after separation such as taxes, investments funds that you may have entered into with your spouse and the ensuing costs needed to sustain the financial burdens of accommodating child custody, since each parent might be spending separately on the child. It is advisable for both couples to amicably come to the terms of agreement of their divorce. Divorce proceedings that are characterized by long, drawn out court battles tend to be the most expensive ones which can carve a giant hole in both spouse’s bank accounts.
• A divorce leads to a loss of confidence: We grow up thinking that we will marry and be happy. When we “fail” at that, our self confidence and belief in ourselves is deeply affected. We have failed at one of the key jobs of adulthood: to find a suitable mate and make it work. Another aspect of confidence that is affected is our confidence in our desirability. This is why newly divorced people often go through a stage of serial dating, desperately seeking to re-establish themselves as being attractive and wanted. Or they may fall into another relationship right away, rebounding instead of carefully choosing someone who is healthy for them, compounding and complicating the already raw wound of divorce.
• Loss of Identity: When divorce happens, both individuals lose that familiar role of husband or wife. Even if the marriage is troubled, there is still security in knowing that you are this person’s spouse. All of that is gone when the divorce papers are signed. You are no longer the wife of so-and-so; you are now just their ex—not a very affirming title.
Things You Should Do Before Filing for Divorce
There’s more to filing for divorce than simply filing your petition with the court. The following are the things you should do before you file to achieve a better outcome in your divorce.
Consult an Attorney: It’s always a good idea to consult an attorney before you decide to file for divorce. An attorney can explain the divorce process, including mediation, financial disclosures, and the legal requirements. An attorney can also help you identify your goals regarding child custody and parent-time and the division of assets and debts.
Gather Financial Documents: Documentation is very important in a divorce. You should gather all the records you can regarding your financial and retirement accounts, mortgages and auto loans, credit card statements, tax returns, and pay stubs. Your attorney will need these records to better represent you and often courts require disclosure of these records to your spouse during the case. It’s important to gather these documents before you file for divorce because they can sometimes be difficult to gather after the divorce is filed.
Determine Your Goals for Child Custody and Parent-Time.: If you have children, custody and parent-time, during and after the divorce, are probably your biggest concern. You should know that, absent extreme circumstances, the court will likely award you and your spouse joint custody of the children. It’s a good idea to sit down and carefully consider your work schedule, your children’s schedule, and other obligations you may have to outline the custody and parent-time arrangement you want. This will also help your attorney identify your goals during the initial consultation.
Figure Out Your Post-Filing Living Situation: You should decide whether you want to live in the same home as your spouse during the divorce process. Do you plan to move somewhere else? Do you want your spouse to move out? Decide what your goals are for your living situation, both before and after the divorce is final. These are important considerations that you should also discuss with your attorney because moving out of the house can affect your chances of achieving your goals regarding your home and child custody.
Talk to an Attorney Regarding Joint Bank Accounts and Credit Cards: Depending on the circumstances and how you and your spouse pay expenses, your attorney may advise you to close these joints accounts to prevent your spouse from running up bills in your name or draining the bank accounts.
Prepare a Balance Sheet of Your Debts and Assets: You shouldn’t decide your financial goals in a divorce without having an accurate picture of your debts and assets. It’s a good idea to write out a simple balance sheet showing all of your debts and assets, including retirement savings and pensions, bank account balances, valuable personal property and real estate, credit card debts, mortgages, auto loans and other debts. This balance sheet can give you an idea of what you and your spouse will divide during the divorce and will help you budget for the future.
Gather a Support Network Around Yourself: Divorce can take an emotional toll on you and your family. Equally as important as hiring an attorney is surrounding yourself with family and friends who can support you emotionally through this difficult time. It may even be a good idea to speak with a therapist to talk through how you’re feeling. Taking these proactive steps can help you keep a clear head during the divorce process and achieve a better outcome.
When you need to talk to a lawyer about divorce, 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