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Utah Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Utah

A legal separation in Utah is called "separate maintenance - a court will detail the monetary support guidelines and child custody issues and the division of marital property. Couples hoping for a reconciliation may prefer this form of separation to divorce.

Utah requires married couples with children under the age of 18 to attend classes to educate themselves on divorce, and couples with no children must still undergo a 90-day waiting period. Moreover, married couples filing for divorce must also attend a mediation session to resolve remaining disputes before going to trial. Filing for legal separation circumvents the class requirements and the 90-day waiting period.

Parties are legally separated only when a court enters a decree of separate maintenance. To obtain a decree of separate maintenance in Utah, the parties go through an action like a divorce. Separate maintenance divides property, awards custody of children, and provides for child support and alimony, but does so on a temporary basis; the decree of separate maintenance does not end the marriage. Alimony under separate maintenance is more common than under a divorce decree because the parties are still married, and the law requires spouses to support one another.

Once the separation occurs, the separated couple may file for a divorce, which is independent of the legal separation. Court and attorney fees for legal separation and divorce are equal, but couples seeking a divorce after a separation will end up paying the same amount twice. Couples seeking legal separation must resolve issues similar to that of divorce, including child custody and visitation, dividing up property and child support, and paying debts.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.

Grounds

Couples can obtain a legal separation on a few different grounds, which include one party having deserted or left the other without reason or, although able, neglects or refuses to provide for the other spouse. One can also seek legal separation when the other is imprisoned for a period exceeding one year, preventing that incarcerated party from providing for the spouse. Additionally, legal separation is obtainable when spouses live separately but claim no grievance.

Residency

In order to be eligible for legal separation, both spouses must have been Utah residents for the past 90 days

Initial Procedure

Twenty days after the paperwork petitioning the court for a legal separation has been filed, the respondent receives a summons to appear in court. In court, the petitioner explains the grounds for the separation, and the judge generally grants a decree of legal separation.

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