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Utah Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Utah, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
The court may decree a dissolution of the marriage contract between the petitioner and respondent where the petitioner or respondent has been an actual and bona fide resident for 3 months of this state and of the county where the action is brought. This also applys to members of the armed forces of the United States who are not legal residents of this state, where the petitioner has been stationed in this state under military orders.
Unless the court, for good cause shown and set forth in the findings, otherwise orders, no hearing for decree of divorce shall be held by the court until 90 days shall have elapsed from the filing of the complaint, provided the court may make such interim orders as may be just and equitable.
The 90-day period shall not apply in any case where both parties have completed the mandatory educational course for divorcing parents. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-1, 30-3-18)
Grounds for Filing:The Petition for Divorce must declare the appropriate Utah grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
The court may decree a dissolution of the marriage according the following grounds:
(a) Irreconcilable differences of the marriage; (b) When the husband and wife have lived separately under a decree of separate maintenance of any state for three consecutive years without cohabitation.
(a) Impotency of the respondent at the time of marriage; (b) Adultery committed by the respondent subsequent to marriage; (c) Willful desertion of the petitioner by the respondent for more than one year; (d) Willful neglect of the respondent to provide for the petitioner the common necessaries of life; (e) Habitual drunkenness of the respondent; (f) Conviction of the respondent for a felony; (g) Cruel treatment of the petitioner by the respondent to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress to the petitioner; (i) Incurable insanity. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-1)
Filing Spouse Title:Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:In the District Court of the __________ Judicial District, in and for ___________ County, State of Utah. This is the Utah court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Petition for Divorce and Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Utah law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Cover Sheet for Civil Filing Actions, Marital Settlement Agreement, Affidavit Regarding the Children, Petitioner's Affidavit of Jurisdiction and Grounds for Divorce, and Certificate of Divorce, Dissolution of Marriage, or Annulment.
Court Clerk's Title:District Clerk's Office. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Utah is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
All of the spouses marital property is divided equitably upon divorce. The court will examine each case on an individual basis and determined an appropriate property award based on what is fair to each spouse.
Neither spouse is personally liable for the separate debts, obligations, or liabilities of the other: (a) Contracted or incurred before marriage; (b) Contracted or incurred during marriage, except family expenses; (c) Contracted or incurred after divorce or an order for separate maintenance under this title, except the spouse is personally liable for that portion of the expenses incurred on behalf of a minor child for reasonable and necessary medical and dental expenses, and other similar necessities. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-5, 30-3-12)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
When the parties can not come to an agreement, the court shall consider at least the following factors in determining alimony: (i) The financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse; (ii) The recipient's earning capacity or ability to produce income; (iii) The ability of the payor spouse to provide support; (iv) The length of the marriage; (v) Whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support; (vi) Whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and (vii) Whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse's skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage. The court may consider the fault of the parties in determining alimony. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-3, 30-3-5)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:Prior to the filing of any action for divorce, annulment, or separate maintenance, either spouse or both spouses may file a petition for conciliation in the family court division invoking the jurisdiction of the court for the purpose of preserving the marriage by effecting a reconciliation between the parties or an amicable settlement of the controversy between them so as to avoid litigation over the issues involved. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-4, 30-3-16, 30-3-18)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Utah courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
In determining whether the best interest of a child will be served by ordering physical custody, the court shall consider the following factors: (a) Whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal or physical custody; (b) The ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest; (c) Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent; (d) Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce; (e) The geographical proximity of the homes of the parents; (f) The preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal or physical custody; (g) The maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents; (h) The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly; (i) Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping; and (j) Any other factors the court finds relevant.
The court shall, in every case, consider joint custody but may award any form of custody which is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
The children may not be required by either party to testify unless the trier of fact determines that extenuating circumstances exist that would necessitate the testimony of the children be heard and there is no other reasonable method to present their testimony.
The court may inquire of the children and take into consideration the children's desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the children's custody or parent-time otherwise. The desires of a child 16 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor.
In awarding custody, the court shall consider, among other factors the court finds relevant, which parent is most likely to act in the best interests of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent as the court finds appropriate.
If the court finds that one parent does not desire custody of the child, or has attempted to permanently relinquish custody to a third party, it shall take that evidence into consideration in determining whether to award custody to the other parent.
Neither the husband nor wife can remove the other or their children from the homestead without the consent of the other, unless the owner of the property shall in good faith provide another homestead suitable to the condition in life of the family; and if a husband or wife abandons his or her spouse, that spouse is entitled to the custody of the minor children, unless a court of competent jurisdiction shall otherwise direct. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-2-10, 30-3-5, 30-3-10)
Child Support:Utah child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent's income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
If the parties can not agree on a child support amount, the court will use the current state child support guidelines. If the court finds sufficient evidence to rebut the guidelines, the court shall establish support after considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to: (a) The standard of living and situation of the parties; (b) The relative wealth and income of the parties; (c) The ability of the obligor to earn; (d) The ability of the obligee to earn; (e) The ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn, or other benefits received by the adult child or on the adult child's behalf including Supplemental Security Income; (f) The needs of the obligee, the obligor, and the child; (g) The ages of the parties; and (h) The responsibilities of the obligor and the obligee for the support of others. (Utah Code - Sections: 30-3-5, 78-45-7)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Utah divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
Utah child support guidelines state the amount of financial support presumed necessary to support the children, but the court may deviate when the guidelines would be inappropriate. The court considers the many factors in deviating from the guidelines, including the standard of living of the parties, the relative wealth and income of the parties, and the earning abilities of the parents, among other factors.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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