Utah Divorce Basics

Learn the basics of a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in Utah.

Grounds for Divorce

Divorce is available in Utah based on either fault or no-fault grounds. A no-fault divorce is based on either irreconcilable differences, or living separate and apart for at least three years.

The fault grounds for divorce include impotency at the time of the marriage, adultery, willful desertion or neglect, habitual drunkenness, conviction of a felony, incurable insanity, or cruelty. 

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

To file for divorce in Utah, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for no fewer than three months.

After a person files for divorce, the court must wait at least 90 days before it can make a final decree of divorce. However, temporary orders and other hearings can take place within this time period. If the couple has children together, then the 90-day waiting period does not apply, but they must attend a mandatory education course and present the certificate of completion to the judge before the divorce will be granted, unless the judge waives the requirement.

Property Division

Judges in Utah use the principle of equitable distribution when spouses cannot agree on property division issues themselves. This means that the court will divide the property equitably between the two spouses, but not necessarily equally. Judges divide only marital property, and not separate property. Separate property is the property that each spouse brought into the marriage or received during the marriage as a separate gift or inheritance.

Alimony

When determining whether alimony is proper in a specific case, the judge may look at the length of the marriage, the financial condition and resources of both spouses, whether the spouse receiving alimony has custody of any minor children, and even the fault of the parties.

If the spouse asking for support has greatly contributed to the earning ability of the other spouse, then the court may make property distribution or alimony orders accordingly. It is a general rule that the court will only order alimony for the number of years that the couple was married, but under the right circumstances alimony might last longer. Additionally, any alimony payments end if the receiving spouse remarries or if either spouse passes away.

Child Support

The court determines the amount of child support that one parent must pay to the other by looking at both parents’ gross incomes, the amount of time that the child spends with each parent, and whether either parent is supporting any other children. A judge may also assign costs for childcare or healthcare to one or both of the parents. To find out more about Utah’s child support calculator, visit the website for the Department of Human Services, here.

Child Custody

The court must consider the best interests of the child when making a ruling on child custody. This means that the judge would look at the parents’ past conduct, and how each of them would support the relationship between the child and the other parent. The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other, and whether the parents participated in the child’s upbringing before the divorce, are also important in a child custody determination. The judge may ask for the child’s preference, and the preferences of a child is older than 16 would be given added weight. 

Either parent may ask the court for a modification of or termination to the custody arrangement if they can show the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the modification or termination would be in the best interest of the child.

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