Very simply put, divorce refers to a legal proceeding in which a marriage is fully dissolved, while a legal separation keeps the marriage intact while the couple lives separately. The processes for each differ from state to state, and differ from each other in other notable ways.

Married couples in Utah who are considering divorce can first file for a temporary separation. It is a less permanent solution to resolving marital issues, and can work if you and your spouse:

  • Outline your intentions and expectations;
  • Strictly agree on a timeline to end the separation either with reunion or divorce; and
  • Agree to and understand that will govern your time apart.

A trial or temporary separation is an agreement between spouses in which the couple spends designated time away from each other. During a trial separation, one spouse may move out completely, but some couples still reside in the same house with one spouse moving into a spare room. During the separation, spouses can agree on a timeframe in which they will be apart from each other while remaining legally married. It is important to note that a trial separation does not have any legal impact on your marriage or property rights.

A Utah court can grant temporary orders regarding issues such as property division, child custody and support, and parent time. Both spouses must have resided in Utah for at least 90 days in order to seek a temporary separation order, which is generally valid for one year after the filing date.

In order to file for divorce in Utah, at least one spouse must have resided for a minimum three months in the county in which the divorce petition is filed. There are several examples of grounds for divorce in Utah, one of which is irreconcilable differences. With the exception of extraordinary circumstances, there is a mandatory 90-day waiting period from the time the petition is filed to the time the divorce decree is signed.

If shared minor children are involved in the divorce, the couple must attend a divorce education class. Additionally, mediation that takes place early on in the divorce process is required when the parties do not agree on all of the issues they are facing.

What Paperwork Do I Need To File For Divorce In Utah?

To file for divorce in Utah, a divorce petition must be filed with the district court. This district court must be in a county in which at least one spouse has resided for a minimum three months.

In terms of paperwork you will need to file for divorce in Utah, divorce documents can be found on the Online Court Assistance Program website. It is important to note that divorce forms that are offered on other websites should be avoided, as they may not be approved by the court. The spouse who is filing for divorce must serve the other spouse with the documents, and they must be served within 120 days of filing.

How Is Property Divided In Utah?

When married couples divorce, how their property is divided will depend on whether their state adheres to community property or equitable division.

Community property generally refers to any property or assets that a couple obtains during their marriage, and owns together. If the state processing the divorce is a community property state, the couple’s property will generally be split evenly between the parties. Any property that belonged to a spouse prior to the marriage, or was obtained after a divorce or separation, is considered to be separate property. Another example of separate property would be anything that was given to one spouse as a gift from a third party during the marriage.

Equitable distribution requires a court to consider a number of factors and variables when determining which party should get what item of property. Equitable distribution does not mean to divide equally; rather, equitable distribution refers to the division of property that achieves both a fair and comprehensive result for both parties. To put it another way, the main focus of the decision for property division is based on fairness to the parties.

Utah is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the state divides property “equitably,” according to what is fair. What this means is that the court may decide that longer marriages have an almost equal division of property, while those in shorter marriages are simply awarded what they owned prior to the marriage as well as what they contributed during the marriage.

Equitable distribution determinations depend on the individual facts of each case. Some examples include, but may not be limited to:

  • The financial and employment background of each party;
  • Each party’s age, health, and skills;
  • The overall profile of each person’s estate, as well as the marriage estate;
  • Whether either party has any special needs, such as a medical condition;
  • Whether the party has any shared bank accounts, benefit plans, or real property;
  • Issues associated with child custody and support; and
  • Whether spousal support will be factored in.

Equitable distribution is the preferred method to use, due to the variety of factors involved in making a decision and how those results tend to be viewed as a more “natural” and “fair” way to divide property. However, equitable distribution often involves a deeper analysis, which can mean that the proceedings for a case may take longer and can present greater challenges.

What Should I Know About Child Custody And Alimony In Utah?

Utah family courts encourage parents to work out custody arrangements themselves, without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement on their own, family courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.

When determining the best interest of a child, the court will consider:

  • Who has been the child’s primary caregiver;
  • The depth and quality of the parent-child relationship;
  • The physical and mental health of the child and both parents;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences;
  • The quality of education provided by each parent’s school district;
  • Each parents’ conduct and moral standards;
  • Evidence or history of child abuse or spousal abuse; and
  • The child’s reasonable preference, if age appropriate.

A parent’s gender identity is not considered as a factor; additionally, the court cannot base a custody determination solely on a parent’s disability, unless the parent is unable to care for their child. Utah maintains statewide visitation and parenting guidelines, which help structure parenting time and visitation rights. Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved by the court, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order, and the court must approve any modification of the plan.

When determining whether to award alimony, the court considers a number of factors, including:

  • The financial needs of the requesting spouse;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The couple’s standard of living at the time of separation;
  • Whether either party is found to be at fault for the divorce; and
  • Whether the paying spouse can actually make the alimony payments.

An alimony award generally does not exceed the number of years that the couple was married.

Do I Need An Attorney To File For Divorce In Utah?

If you live in Utah and are considering filing for divorce, you should consult with an experienced Utah divorce lawyer. An attorney can guide you through the state’s specific divorce process, and ensure your rights are protected. Finally, a divorce attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.