It can be complicated to legally unwind your life from that of your spouse, especially if you have children. If you have decided to get a divorce, you should be aware of Utah's laws regarding the process.
You may represent yourself in your divorce proceeding, but make sure you understand the laws and meet all deadlines. Sometimes it is a better idea to hire a lawyer who can help you and prepare your documents for filing. This can ensure that your filing is not rejected.
The Divorce Process in Utah
Before you can begin divorce proceedings, you must have lived in the county where you file for at least three months. After filing your initial petition, you must have your spouse served with a copy and a summons. You have a limited amount of time to do this and your spouse must answer within a certain time as well. If your spouse does not answer, you may receive everything you asked for in your petition.
You may need to attend mediation if there are issues that you and your spouse cannot agree on. If you have children, you must also attend a course on how divorce affects children.
With a few exceptions, your divorce cannot be finalized until at least 90 days after you've filed.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Utah will grant divorces on both fault and no-fault grounds. If you want to file on fault grounds, the state recognizes several types of wrongdoing:
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Willful desertion for more than one year
- Conviction of a felony
The no-fault grounds is irreconcilable differences. This means you and your spouse cannot save the relationship. No other reason for divorce is necessary.
Distributing Property and Debt
The court will generally agree to any property division you and your spouse come up with, as long as it is fair. Otherwise a judge will divide your marital property, including both assets and debts, in an equitable manner. This may mean an equal 50-50 split, but it may not. When determining what is fair, the court may consider such factors as the length of the marriage and earning the potential of each spouse.
Utah law allows spouses to keep their separate property, which includes assets owned before the marriage or received as a gift or an inheritance during the marriage. This property must not have been combined with marital property, however, and any increase in its value during the marriage may be considered marital and subject to division in a divorce.
Changing Your Name
In your petition for divorce, you may include a request to return to the legal name you used before you were married. Make sure you indicate the full name you want to resume. Your "new" name can then become part of your final decree.
After Your Divorce
Under certain circumstances, you may be able to have your decree changed. For example, if you believe the judge made a legal error, you can file an appeal. If there is a clerical error in the final paperwork, such as a transposed number, you can request that it be corrected. You may also ask the court to modify certain things, such as child support or parenting time, if your or your ex-spouse's circumstances change significantly.
Getting Legal Advice
The information presented here is not legal advice. It is general information that may or may not apply to your particular situation. For specific advice about your divorce, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced attorney.